No raise for Columbia Association chief; Council votes against increase for McCarty


Despite a pitch from Columbia Association President Deborah O. McCarty for a bonus and a substantial raise -- potentially to $200,000 -- the Columbia Council voted Thursday night not to give her either one.

The vote against raising McCarty's $130,000 salary passed 9-1, with Council Chairman Joseph Merke the lone dissenter.

The council defeated, by a vote of 6-4, a proposal to give McCarty a $5,000 bonus, though sources familiar with the situation said Kenneth Puckett proposed -- but did not get a second on -- a bonus three times that much. In addition to Merke and Puckett, those supporting the $5,000 bonus were Jean S. Friedberg Jr. and Cecilia Januszkiewicz.

McCarty's annual review comes at a time of intense community debate over her leadership during the past 20 months, and controversy over a recent demand that the association's six vice presidents submit resignation letters or be fired.

The votes seem to mark a shift in council sentiment. The board has consistently voted 7-3 in support of McCarty -- the 87,000-person community's equivalent of a mayor -- on leadership, performance and business finance matters.

Some councilors who have publicly defended the president, saying she has been "handcuffed" by her staff or "railroaded" out of town for asking "hard questions," voted not to give her any extra compensation.

Despite the dispute, McCarty told the council at the start of the evaluation that she expected a raise and a bonus, sources said. She said a compensation study recently completed for all full-time Columbia Association employees showed that the median salary of chief executive officers of similar companies was $200,000 or above.

McCarty then left the room so the council could discuss whether she had met her goals. The meeting, which was closed to the public, lasted 4 1/2 hours.

Asked yesterday whether she requested a raise and bonus, McCarty said: "I'm not discussing what we discussed in a private performance evaluation."

She said she and her team, including her vice presidents, "certainly met and exceeded the goals," but remarked of the council's decision: "It's not surprising. It's pretty much what I expected. There was a lot of public pressure not to grant a raise or bonus."

McCarty was given a $5,000 salary increase during her last review. She makes $10,000 more than former association head Padraic M. Kennedy did when he retired two years ago. Howard County Executive James N. Robey makes $93,500; Mary Ellen Duncan, Howard Community College president, makes $117,700. Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley earns $125,000.

In preparation for the review, McCarty presented each councilor with a nearly 2-inch-thick binder listing her accomplishments. In it, she described her success in meeting her 11 management objectives, which include facilitating "better communication" between the council and CA's senior staff and serving as the association's "ambassador."

She said she has achieved an upgraded bond rating for the Columbia Association, recommended ways of revising the budget process, established "good relations" with Howard County officials and met the city's changing needs by creating new programs or modifying existing ones.

McCarty's goals were set last year by the council's Management Appraisal Committee, with her input. The review was performed by the whole council, as is the norm. Yesterday, the board issued a statement saying the committee had voted 5-4 that the president had "generally met those goals," but that it would maintain her salary and give her no bonus.

Those voting against a raise for the coming fiscal year were Atkinson-Stewart, Friedberg, Halpin, Januszkiewicz, Jones, Puckett, Tom Forno, Vince Marando and Adam Rich. The latter three had voted previously in defense of McCarty. Atkinson-Stewart, Halpin and Jones had been calling for McCarty's resignation for several weeks.

Residents in five villages -- Harper's Choice, Hickory Ridge, Oakland Mills, Town Center and Wilde Lake -- will choose council representatives April 14 and April 15.

An independent consultant hired last month to help facilitate the dispute centered on McCarty has formally advised the council not to dismiss her.

In an April 4 report, Steve Beall of Columbia-based Beall Consultations wrote that there has been no "substantive critique of [McCarty's] performance or qualifications" and that her departure "could cause serious ongoing problems for the Association."

He said it is typical for an organization in transition to blame its new leader for long-standing or systemic problems.

"Measures should be taken immediately to retain the President," Beall wrote. "Such measures traditionally include assurance that compensation is at or near competitive levels, and that perquisites are appropriate."

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