Owens vetoes bill on staffing data in budget; Council supported measure on 4-3 vote

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens issued the first veto in at least four years of county government yesterday, killing a bill that would have forced the administration to put more information about staffing levels into county budgets.

The Democrat vetoed a bill sponsored by Republican John J. Klocko III and passed by a 4-3 majority of the County Council -- with the votes of two Democrats -- March 15.

The legislation would have required Owens and future county executives to disclose the number of county employees and their pay levels in the county's budget.

Ownes disliked the legislation because it would have prevented the administration from having flexibility in personnel decisions, said Andrew C. Carpenter, a spokesman for the county executive.

"It's micromanagement," Carpenter said of the bill. "It's the County Council micromanaging the county's personnel."

Detailed personnel information was routinely included in county budgets until 1996, when former County Executive John G. Gary sent the council the first of two budgets without it.

At the time, Gary and then council Chairwoman Diane R. Evans were in a dispute about three patronage jobs that Evans wanted eliminated from the budget. In an attempt to frustrate her cuts, Gary provided a budget without personnel information.

Klocko, who represents south county, said yesterday that he does not believe he has the five votes necessary to override the veto.

"It's an extraordinary event, to veto what is essentially a good-government provision," said Klocko. "The intention of the bill was to have more information available about staffing levels."

Klocko, the only holdover from the last council, said that the county's charter gives the executive a large amount of power and that the generally weaker council should not diminish itself further by yielding on the budget information.

Surprised by veto

Pamela G. Beidle, a Linthicum Democrat who voted for the bill, said she was surprised by the veto.

"I feel that we really do need to keep an eye on governmental spending," Beidle said. "I've run a business, and so I know how to make every dollar stretch.

"I voted in favor of it because I really wanted to scrutinize the budget this year."

Beidle added that Owens has assured her that the administration would supply complete information on staffing levels. But it would not be required under the budget ordinance.

In favor

Clifford R. Roop, a Republican representing the Broadneck Peninsula, and Barbara D. Samorajczyk, a Democrat from the Annapolis area, also voted for the bill.

Voting against the bill were council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr., a Democrat representing the Glen Burnie area, Shirley Murphy, a Democrat from Pasadena, and Bill D. Burlison, a Democrat from the western section of the county.

'Unnecessary burden'

In her veto letter, Owens wrote: "I support open government and the free exchange of information between our branches of government."

But she said that including the detailed personnel summaries in the budget as a matter of law would impose "an unnecessary burden on both the administration and council."

Pub Date: 3/26/99

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