- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Two Charles County commissioners again aired their dissatisfaction with delayed appointments to the Charles County Planning Commission, three of whose members’ terms expired at the end of 2012.
As the board discussed a resolution Tuesday requiring the commissioners to approve appointees to county boards and committees made by outside agencies, Commissioner Ken Robinson (D) suggested that “we should strengthen this” by adding language requiring the commissioners to make “timely” reappointments or replacements of people whose terms have expired.
“We shouldn’t be loopholing extensions by ignoring them,” Robinson said.
After discussion, Robinson opted to ask County Attorney Barbara L. Holtz to prepare a resolution, for later consideration, mandating timely replacement of county board members. He was unsuccessful because he had the support only of commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D).
Planning commissioners Lou Grasso, Joan Jones and Chairman Courtney Edmonds have continued to serve, in accordance with state law, because county commissioners have not announced their reappointments or replacements. Jones and Edmonds are eligible for appointment to a second four-year term, while Grasso, having served for more than eight years, is not.
Commissioner Reuben B. Collins II (D) noted that the county’s inaction was not illegal and wondered about the “precedent” established by changing the rules. Robinson acknowledged that the board was not breaking the law but asked how long the situation would last.
“From what I understand, and certainly through the guidance we’ve received through counsel, there is nothing the county has done that is essentially running afoul of what the law would be,” Collins said.
“I’m not claiming we’re running afoul of the law. [My aim], I guess, is to add the word timely because … if we ignore an expiration of a term, it can go on forever,” Robinson replied.
“Yes. Theoretically, yes,” Holtz confirmed.
Kelly weighed in, noting that the board had already discussed, in general terms, “a commitment to timeliness.”
State law was not intended to let planning commissioners serve indefinitely but to avoid interruptions to county business, Kelly said.
“I think the other piece of this — we’re only talking about one situation here, we might as well be upfront about that. … If the board feels there’s no need to make this appointment, then the board has that right, and I certainly support the board’s decision. I think the bigger issue is, why would we just pick that one person [Grasso]? Whether we need a resolution or whatever the matter is, I think we as a board should be able to agree that we move things forward in a timely fashion,” Kelly said.
The initial resolution, requiring “that all proposed appointees for County boards, commissions or committees designated by or recommended by an agency or entity outside of County Government shall be subject to approval by the Board of County Commissioners for appointment or removal,” passed unanimously and immediately went into effect.
Collins: Grasso’s expertise needed
Collins also discussed the planning commission with attendees at an informal meeting with constituents in Waldorf on Monday night. There, Collins said he wanted to keep Grasso on the board because the county could use his experience as it finalizes “two extremely controversial issues”: the Charles County Comprehensive Plan, the county’s chief planning document, and the “tier map,” a land conservation map required by the Sustainable Growth and Agricultural Preservation Act of 2012, the so-called “septic bill.”
Collins acknowledged that the planning commission has finished its work on both documents, which are now before the board of county commissioners, but he wanted Grasso to stay “in the abundance of caution on my part. I wanted to make sure, in terms of actual completion. … From my perspective, I want to ensure that in terms of the work associated with those two processes, they are complete. I haven’t set a date or anything [for Grasso’s replacement] in my mind, but I wanted to express what my feelings are on that issue,” Collins said, stressing that he spoke for himself, not the board.
Applicants for the open seats seem biased, Collins said, although he later said that there had been applications, which are not public, from people he would consider acceptable.
There are “four or five names who are vocal advocates for a particular point of view that have applied. … I don’t really know if that’s the wisest thing because you kind of put yourself in a box: OK, that’s what you are. I would hope that people who apply for these boards are objective, not just saying, ‘I’m taking the pro-growth position,’ or the anti-growth position.”