Bonuses paid by McCarty questioned


A Columbia councilwoman is raising questions about thousands of dollars in bonuses that she says Deborah O. McCarty awarded to three employees in the final days of her stormy tenure as Columbia Association president.

Councilwoman Barbara Russell said McCarty awarded $6,000 to acting Association President Charles Rhodehamel, who also serves as the association vice president for open-space management.

Russell said a total of $2,000 went to two other association employees, whom she declined to identify.

Russell, who represents Oakland Mills, has asked for information about the bonuses as part of an exit audit that she said should be conducted in the wake of McCarty's resignation in May.

The council is scheduled to discuss whether to conduct such an audit - a review of McCarty's actions on financial and administrative matters - at a meeting tomorrow night. The meeting is scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Columbia Association headquarters.

"I'm new, so there could be something I don't know, but I'm not aware that there are discretionary bonuses that the president is authorized to just give out," Russell said.

Several of Russell's fellow council members, who declined to discuss details of the bonuses, said the private homeowners association has a tradition of providing bonuses to employees.

"They [bonuses] have been part of the fabric of compensation there for a long time," said Vincent Marando, who represents Wilde Lake. "There has been a history and tradition of bonus-giving. This is not unusual."

Rhodehamel declined to comment or release documents related to the bonuses, saying the issue was a confidential personnel matter.

Russell said the information should not be kept from council members or the public because association liens pay for bonuses.

"I absolutely believe this is a discussion for the public to share," she said.

Russell said the bonuses might turn out to be proper and well-deserved.

But the council should have had a say in awarding them, she said.

Russell said the bonuses came to the council's attention after the fact and only because rumors about them were circulating in the community.

Later, at the council's request, association staff provided members with details of the bonuses.

"We're getting this information kind of unofficially," she said. "At least $8,000 in bonuses were given out that we know of to three employees. I don't know really on what basis that was awarded.

"I think that kind of [bonus-giving] determination should be part of the budget process that comes before the board. I think we have to make a judgment on bonuses. This is not a typical thing. This is outside of the pay plan."

Chairman Lanny Morrison, of Harper's Choice, said it wouldn't be practical for the council to weigh in on every bonus.

"The board has historically done the review of the president, the performance appraisal. Below that, it's always been done by the president with the vice presidents, and then on down the line," he said.

"With 1,200-and-some employees, I think you may be biting off more than you can chew. I don't know any organization that works that way."

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