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Commissioners seek power to remove PenMar board members

January 08, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Some Washington County Commissioners want the PenMar Development Corp. to give them the power to remove the agency's board members at will, or the commissioners will seek that authority from state lawmakers, Commissioner Doris J. Nipps said Wednesday.

Last month, PenMar voted to give the commissioners the power to remove members of PenMar's board of directors for cause, including for criminal acts or malfeasance.

Nipps said that action wasn't enough.

"That basically says they had to do something illegal to be removed," Nipps said. "Sometimes it's nothing illegal, but it may be an issue of someone who doesn't show up at meetings ... or who is disruptive."

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PenMar has been involved in controversy over the past few months, and seven of its 15 board members resigned in the fall.

The agency was created by the state in 1997 to redevelop the former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base, which the Army shut down in 1998.

Some of those who resigned have said they did so because of infighting among board members and other disagreements on redevelopment efforts.

The commissioners appoint the PenMar board, but until last month, they could not remove members.

PenMar board Chairman Ron Sulchek said Wednesday he had no comment on the issue.

Nipps said if PenMar did not give the commissioners the authority to remove its board members at will, "I guess we can go to the delegation and ask them to amend the law."

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said during a commissioners meeting Tuesday that he also wanted the commissioners to be able to remove members at will.

At the meeting, Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook directed Assistant County Attorney John Martirano to send the request to Sulchek.

Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell said some of the PenMar board members feared the board would become political if the commissioners had the authority to remove board members at will.

Wivell said PenMar board members were afraid they would be removed if they didn't agree with the wishes of the commissioners on fort issues.

Wivell is also a member of the PenMar board.

Nipps said having the authority to remove PenMar board members at will would be consistent with its authority over other county-appointed boards.

Wivell said the commissioners usually don't remove people from other boards they appoint if board members can't get along.

"The board has a history of appointing folks and leaving people in place regardless of the board," Wivell said.

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