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PMDC, county board woes: A new law is not the answer

October 14, 2003

When the Washington County Commissioners said last week that they wanted the state to give them more control over the board charged with redeveloping the old Fort Ritchie Army base, it seemed that they might have forgotten a few things, including:

- The PenMar Development Corporation's members are appointed by the commissioners, not state government, and

- One of their own, Commissioner William Wivell, sits on the PMDC board.

How much more control do the commissioners need? If they decide, based on input from Wivell and others, that there are some PMDC board members who are obstructing progress, they have two options - to refuse to reappoint them when their terms are up or to ask for their resignations.

There are a number of possibilities that account for what has gone on with the PMDC board. One is that the commissioners didn't appoint the right people in the first place. Or perhaps they didn't give those they appointed clear direction or regular feedback.

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The latter seems like a better possibility, given the momentous effort it's taken to get the CSL Youth Sports League use of the gymnasium there. Getting it done should have been as easy as Commissioners' President Greg Snook calling PMDC Chairman Paula Lampton and telling her how foolish it made her group look to deny a non-profit group access to a facility paid for with taxpayer dollars.

If Snook didn't make the call, then shame on him. If he made it and Lampton disregarded his advice, shame on her.

Some recent actions allegedly taken by Lampton will be scrutinized by an unnamed law firm which is looking into whether a PMDC employee deleted material from a computer after being put on administrative leave.

An e-mail from PMDC Director Richard Rook accused Lampton of allowing the employee access to the computer after the worker had been told to leave the premises. Snook said that regardless of what turns up, there will be no criminal charges filed.

If Snook is that sure that nothing serious will turn up, then why spend a couple of thousand dollars on a probe? Why not have the county administrator or his designee look into it?

Our recommendation: Before the county's state lawmakers craft a bill to give the commissioners any more power over PMDC, they should take a look at how well the commissioners have exercised the power they already have.

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