A second Columbia Council member has joined the race to lead the new board as the Columbia Association faces formidable challenges, including finding a replacement for President Deborah O. McCarty.
Adam Rich, the River Hill representative, plans to run against Lanny Morrison of Harper's Choice for chairman of the 10-member board. Morrison, who until Monday was the only candidate running, has attracted tentative support from at least four other council members. Six votes are needed for election.
"Although this recent year was a tumultuous one, I believe I always conducted myself professionally, within the rules of fair play, and struggled daily to work together with all members, regardless of our political differences," Rich wrote in a letter to council members this week announcing his candidacy.
If Rich is defeated for chairman, he intends to run for vice chairman against Pearl Atkinson-Stewart, who held that position last session.
The council, which also serves as the association's board of directors, will meet at 7: 30 p.m. tomorrow to elect its leaders and make committee assignments.
Meanwhile, the Dorsey's Search village board appointed Bob Conors to finish out the council term of Kenneth Puckett, who resigned effective Monday, saying he refused to serve with council representatives he did not "respect." Puckett was a staunch supporter of McCarty.
In the final hours of the yearlong session that ended Monday, McCarty agreed to step down in exchange for a severance package of $200,000. Several council members and other residents had questioned the president's leadership and commitment for months. McCarty maintained that the governance structure of the association and a "resistance to change" were at the root of the controversy.
McCarty's resignation becomes effective at the end of business today. Chick Rhodehamel, the association's vice president for open space, will be acting president until an interim official is named.
Oakland Mills' new council member, Barbara Russell, said the board seems to agree that an interim president should come from within the organization. But first, she said, the board should consider bringing back former vice presidents Pam Mack and Shelby A. Tucker King, who left the Columbia Association after being asked by McCarty and the council to turn in resignation letters.
"I would be definitely supportive of bringing them back, because I know of no reason that would justify asking for their resignations," Russell said.
In the race for chairman, Morrison, a McCarty critic who served in that position more than 10 years ago, has stressed his experience on the board. He said he understands "intimately" the mission, programs and services of the association.
Among other things, Morrison has proposed holding one council meeting in each village during the year; meeting with the news media each month in open session; regularly updating information on the Columbia Association Web site; and soliciting the views of village officials and former village officials and council representatives.
Rich said the new council faces several major decisions in addition to finding a replacement for McCarty. Among them are whether to annex the Rouse Co.'s Key property in North Laurel and whether to keep the beleaguered horse center open -- which could have far-reaching implications for other association facilities. As chairman of the council's communications committee last session, Rich also proposed holding regular news briefings.
"I think my hopes for accomplishments are in line with, I would dare say, all of the members," he said.
Rich, who called the controversy surrounding McCarty a "witch hunt," said recent events within the Columbia Association probably were unavoidable.
"There are police departments, there are school departments, there are large community associations, there are small-town governments that all have upheaval, turnover, turmoil," he said. "And that's part of life and part of growth. We hit it, and we're going to get through it."
Rich said he has talked informally to some council members about his campaign for chairman, but urged everyone to consider voting for him -- even those who said they would support Morrison.
About reinstating Mack and Tucker King, Rich said, "I think it would be extremely unfortunate to go backward."
Conors, most recently village board chairman in Dorsey's Search, called himself the "newest of the new" yesterday and said his service on the council will be a "learning process."
Conors was instrumental in helping expose the embezzlement of about $65,000 in village funds by former village manager Anne S. Darrin. She pleaded guilty in September to theft and was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
"I think this board will come together and get on with the business of Columbia," Conors said.
Also yesterday, Long Reach resident Jessie Newburn presented a petition with 53 signatures requesting a special election to recall council representative Cecilia Januszkiewicz, who has one year left on her two-year term.
Among other things, the petition noted "ineffective representation" on issues including retaining McCarty and demanding resignation letters from the association's vice presidents.
In the April 15 election, residents approved two amendments that create a way for the council representative to be recalled, though village officials have not said whether they intend to call a special election.
Januszkiewicz, who supported McCarty throughout the controversy and voted to award her a $5,000 raise, said Saturday that she is considering stepping down.
There was no discussion of the petition last night.