Ridgely cannot rescind his resignation; Town manager refuses conditional severance offered by council


Hampstead is looking for a new town manager, after the mayor and Town Council -- acting in closed session -- decided not to allow Neil M. Ridgely to rescind his resignation.

Ridgely, town manager since 1995, became angry over recent conflicts with Mayor Christopher M. Nevin and resigned last week, but changed his mind and sought to stay in the post.

Ridgely said Nevin called him at home early yesterday, advising him that the council had decided not to reconsider his resignation at a meeting Tuesday night.

The council would consider paying Ridgely a severance package, if he would sign an agreement that would bar him from speaking on town issues and details of the offer, Ridgely said.

Ridgely said he refused the offer and Nevin told him to leave immediately.

"It's unfortunate after his resignation that he could not close the book and move on in a more professional manner," Nevin said. "There is nothing to be gained by going back and forth with him in the press."

Nevin said the town likely would advertise for a town manager, review applications and interview candidates.

In the interim, department heads would be asked to "step up and assume the necessary duties on a temporary basis."

Nevin said he foresees no problems until the post is filled.

"We have very good people capable of meeting the dual challenge" of doing their jobs and performing some of the town manager's duties, he said.

Ridgely said he didn't know what he will do, but noted he probably will never work in a government job again, where decisions that spark controversy must often be made.

Before taking the Hampstead post, Ridgely worked for about 10 years in local government. He served as landscape and forest manager for Carroll County government for six years.

He ran unsuccessfully in 1994 as a Democratic candidate for county commissioner, losing in the primary.

As an avowed conservationist, Ridgely has been outspoken on development issues. As zoning administrator, he was a stickler for details over site plans and signs.

Ridgely said he never handed in a written resignation, but acknowledged he became angry and quit over two key matters: not being allowed to sign and distribute holiday bonuses; and the mayor's asking him to threaten the town's insurance company over the number of damage estimates needed before repairs could be approved on the mayor's car. It recently was struck by a Hampstead police car.

Nevin denied any change in Ridgely's check-signing authority and said he never told Ridgely to threaten the insurance company.

Ridgely also said he became frustrated with what he called Nevin's lack of timely attention to important town matters, including employee grievances, and responding to U.S. Postal Service officials on finding a site for a new post office.

The town was given 15 days to respond after postal officials held a public hearing Dec. 8. Ridgely said he wrote a reply the next day, gave it to Nevin to sign and never saw it again.

Ridgely also said Nevin was more attentive to town matters when elected in 1995, but had become lax in recent months.

He noted efforts by the Town Council to accept the county commissioners' offer for Hampstead to assume ownership of the old elementary school on Main Street, if the price was nominal.

He said the commissioners asked Nevin recently if the town would accept such an offer and Nevin declined. He said Nevin's response surprised him and Councilman Haven M. Shoemaker Jr.

Shoemaker downplayed that matter yesterday, indicating that Nevin could be forgiven for forgetting one of many council decisions that were reached months ago.

Shoemaker said Nevin's mistake had been resolved and, if the offer were formally made, it would be accepted.

Pub Date: 1/14/99

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