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McCarty faces new audit call; Second board member seeks outside review of CA chief's expenses; 'Public has right to know'; Council to meet again to discuss her job performance


Another member of the Columbia Council is supporting an independent audit of travel and other expenditures made by Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty.

Kirk Halpin, of Kings Contrivance village, is the second of 10 board members to call for an outside review of expenditures that have included trips to Florida, Georgia and California during the past 18 months.

"As a publicly elected official from the village of Kings Contrivance, I believe that the public has the right to know how their assessments and membership dollars are being used by Deborah McCarty," he said.

Halpin said he is also "concerned" about "the use of her time and its benefit to the Columbia community."

McCarty, who replaced Padraic M. Kennedy as CA's top official in August 1998, is in the midst of an eight-week leave of absence for personal reasons. She could not be reached yesterday for comment.

McCarty's expenditures were discussed with her during a closed-door session Wednesday night that pitted council members against one another and ended without a consensus. The council is expected to meet again March 2 to discuss McCarty's leadership performance and whether she should keep her $130,000-a-year job.

Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, the council vice chairwoman and chairwoman of the Management Appraisal Committee, a panel reviewing the president's performance, was the first to publicly support an outside review of McCarty's expenses.

"We owe it to our community to clear that air and have an independent audit," she said last week. "I felt there were sufficient questions raised as to the appropriateness of certain expenses."

In an interview last week, McCarty, a former city councilwoman and recreation and parks director in Atlanta, described the meeting as "excellent" but declined to comment further.

"The executive sessions are executive sessions, and that information is confidential," she said.

The council chairman, Joseph Merke, could not be reached yesterday. Jean S. Friedberg Jr., the Hickory Ridge representative, who sits on the Management Appraisal Committee, declined to comment.

According to Merke, all questions about the president's expenditures have been addressed "to the satisfaction of the board."

CA has not provided complete records of McCarty's expenditures. But from October 1998 to October 1999, she traveled twice to California and once to Orlando, Fla., and Atlanta for conferences, including that of the International City and County Managers Association and the American Bar Association.

According to CA records, McCarty's travel expenses during that period total $9,300. It is unclear how much CA has paid in conference registration fees.

McCarty has said she was given "complete discretion" to make decisions concerning her travel and training. Though Merke did not approve all of the expenditures, he has said such approval was neither expected nor required.

CA has declined to release the "letter of agreement" outlining McCarty's terms of employment.

McCarty is only the second CA president in 28 years. Her formal performance review is scheduled for April.

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