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County mum on pay for former official

Two Washington County Commissioners say a confidentiality agreement prevents them from disclosing the amount the former Economic

Two Washington County Commissioners say a confidentiality agreement prevents them from disclosing the amount the former Economic

August 08, 2002|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Four of Washington County's five county commissioners said Wednesday that former Economic Development Commission Director John Howard received compensation as part of his retirement, and two said a confidentiality agreement between Howard and the county prevents them from disclosing the amount.

Three commissioners referred questions about the payment to Human Resources Director Alan Davis.

Davis refused to comment on the issue and directed all questions to the county's attorney.

"It's a personnel issue. You'll have to discuss that with the county attorney," Davis said.

County Attorney Richard Douglas declined to say whether Howard received any payment from the county. He said details of the agreement are protected under the Maryland Public Information Act because it is confidential information that deals with personnel.

Howard had been on paid administrative leave since late March and retired on May 8. The county announced his retirement on June 11.

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Howard's annual salary as EDC director was $82,067.

Commissioners William Wivell and Bert Iseminger said the confidentiality agreement protects Howard's compensation from being disclosed.

Mary R. Craig, attorney for The Herald-Mail, said she disagreed with Wivell and Iseminger, because the compensation involves the spending of public money.

"They can't refuse to disclose that by agreeing with the employee to keep that confidential," Craig said. "I'd like to know what a court would say about that."

Wivell said he thinks the amount should be made public.

"The taxpayers do have a right to know what they're paying for," Wivell said. "But it's going to have to depend on the confidentiality agreement that the county signed with John (Howard)."

Commissioners Vice President Paul Swartz was on vacation and could not be reached for comment.

Wivell, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook and Commissioner John Schnebly referred questions about the compensation to Davis.

Snook said the amount was based on what Howard had earned during his five years as director. He said he didn't know the amount.

"I have no idea," Snook said. "Talk with Alan."

Schnebly said he had a general idea of the compensation but didn't have the exact amount "at his fingertips." He said Davis had the exact figure.

"I would have no comment on that at this point," Schnebly said.

He said Howard has the right to privacy.

Snook and Schnebly did not say whether the county had a confidentiality agreement with Howard.

Iseminger said Howard's compensation was based on his years with the county.

"I don't recall exactly," Iseminger said. "It was based on his years of service. Ask John Howard."

Howard would not confirm or deny that he received compensation from the county and referred questions to County Administrator Rodney Shoop and the County Commissioners.

"I am not saying that there was an amount at all," Howard said. "I'm just saying you need to discuss that matter with Rod Shoop or the commissioners."

Shoop was out of the office late Wednesday afternoon and could not be reached for comment.

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