Frederick mayor’s attempt to hire ex-alderman draws fire -- Gazette.Net


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The departure of Executive Assistant Josh Russin and Mayor Randy McClement’s (R) appointment of former alderman Joe Baldi to the post has prompted some members of the Frederick Board of Aldermen to draft a charter amendment imposing term limits on such temporary appointments.

McClement appointed Baldi, who currently serves as a housing counselor at the Frederick County Community Action Agency, to replace Russin as acting director effective Nov. 21.

But the executive assistant position requires formal approval from the five aldermen for a permanent replacement, and some members of the board said they believe the “acting” title allows McClement to circumvent their approval.

Alderman Karen Young (D), who called the move an “end run,” said the proposed charter amendment — which fellow Aldermen Carol Krimm (D) and Kelly Russell (D) also helped draft — would close a loophole that allows for an acting director to serve indefinitely without approval from the aldermen. The amendment is scheduled for a public hearing Thursday.

“It was ... the process that was manipulated,” Young said. “What we are doing for corrective action, to prevent this from happening again, is revising the charter so that you can only appoint someone for an acting position for 60 days.”

Russin is leaving to serve as the deputy chief of staff for Howard County Executive Ken Ulman, according to a city news release.

McClement said he was sorry to see Russin leave, but understands the necessity for the move.

“I’m not happy for me, but I’m happy for him,” he said.

Russin earned $87,677 annually in the position. Baldi, who earns $40,610 in his current position, served as an alderman from 1994 to 2006.

McClement said he believes the executive assistant position serves a very specific role for the mayor, and needs to be someone he wants even if the aldermen are opposed.

In a news release, McClement cited Baldi’s experience with city issues and a shared vision for Frederick as the reasons for the choice.

McClement said it’s especially difficult this year because the acting executive assistant role is potentially for less than a year, if he leaves office after his term is up in 2013. McClement has not said if he plans to run for a second, four-year term.

“Whoever the mayor puts up I would hope [the board] would have the respect to say ... even if they disagree on your philosophy, ‘If this is the person you want mayor, OK,’” McClement said.

Young said the legislation wasn’t drafted in response to Baldi’s appointment, but rather as a concern about the future of similar decisions.

“The biggest concern is that the process defined by the charter is followed in spirit, as well as to the letter,” she said.

Alderman Michael O’Connor (D) said he hoped the amendment would provide clarity in future situations with the replacement of similar positions.

“I think clarity is always the preferred path,” O’Connor said. “One that’s open, and everyone understands what the expectations are.”

Krimm, O’Connor, Russell and Young, as well as alderman Shelley Aloi (R), signed a joint statement backing the proposed charter amendment that would allow temporary replacements for only 60 days, as well as funding for a temporary executive assistant for 60 days.

The statement also said the board’s approval of the executive assistant and other similar positions creates a system of checks and balances between the executive and legislative branches.

“This administration was not the first to identify this matter, but we are the first to take action to correct it,” the statement said. “The charter has no provision that authorizes the Mayor to make an ‘acting’ appointment, with or without approval from the Board.”

tlaino@gazette.net