Clerical error thwarts bid to block center


A clerical error in the county courthouse has stymied a South Haven woman who sued to block construction of a proposed $15 million senior housing center.

Marcine Thomas filed papers in Anne Arundel Circuit Court in September asking Judge Clayton Greene to review a decision by the Maryland Health Resources Planning Commission that gave Mariner Health Group until February 1998 to build a nursing home and assisted living center. The facility would be on 11.37 acres off South Haven Road.

According to court records, Greene signed an order Oct. 10, dismissing Thomas' lawsuit. But Thomas and her lawyer, Theda Braddock, never were notified of the dismissal, the records show.

Accordingly, they missed their chance to appeal within the required 30 days after the dismissal.

"The court blew it," said Braddock.

Thomas could not be reached for comment, but she left a statement in which she said she was "shocked and angered."

"How was it possible that the defendants and their lawyers were notified, and neither my lawyer nor I had been notified?" said the statement, read by her friend, Diane E. Green, of the Heritage Harbour Community Association. "It seems unfair that negligence on the part of the Anne Arundel Circuit Court should result in the negation of all of our efforts to get this decision reversed."

But Braddock agreed with Assistant Chief Deputy Sharon Aulton, who said this was an isolated incident.

"It's a simple clerical error," said Aulton, who supervises the clerks at the courthouse. "I'm surprised that the attorney didn't follow up on it. Had she followed up on it, none of this would have happened."

Thomas and other South Haven residents fear that the facility would be too large and attract too much traffic.

Meanwhile, Mariner -- which merged with Allegis Health Services Inc. in October -- has withdrawn its application to extend the certificate of need for another four months, said Stanley Snow, the regional director of project development. "We don't want to make this a big legal war," Snow said.

Joanne S. Johnson, a member of the Southaven Community Association Inc., said she was pleased that the vote was delayed. "Now we have time to sit back and breathe a little bit," she said. "We've got to get our acts together."

But some community members are still miffed that Mariner officials have not met with them.

Green said Mariner officials were invited to a meeting on Sept. 21 sponsored by the South River Manor Civic Association, but never showed up.

"It's like the citizenry doesn't count," she said. "The people whose lives will be affected by this are being ignored."

Not so, said Snow. "We're perfectly willing to set up a meeting at mutually convenient times," he said.

Pub Date: 12/10/96

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