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PenMar changes called 'short-sighted'

February 06, 2004|by TARA REILLY

tarar@herald-mail.com

Washington County Commissioners Vice President William J. Wivell on Thursday said the state's proposal to change the makeup of the PenMar Development Corp.'s board of directors was orchestrated behind closed doors and was "short-sighted."

"I find it interesting that they would make this decision without having an open discussion on this," Wivell said.

Wivell, a voting member of the PenMar board, said the county commissioners met with the local delegation to the General Assembly a day before the delegation announced the proposed changes, and PenMar was not discussed at that meeting.

"It's basically a political move by a member of the delegation," Wivell said.

He said he thought the current PenMar board was working well together and progressing toward its goal of redeveloping the approximately 600-acre former Fort Ritchie U.S. Army base.

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Commissioner John C. Munson said he was surprised the local delegation would support so many changes, while Commissioners President Gregory I. Snook said he had no problems with the proposed legislation.

The proposed legislation calls for a variety of changes, including reducing the number of voting members from 15 to nine and requiring voting members to reside in Washington County.

The delegation would name four people to the PenMar board and the commissioners would appoint five members.

The commissioners currently appoint all of the 15-member board.

Wivell would lose his ability to vote on the PenMar board, but the legislation would allow him to serve as an ex-officio member.

Under the legislation, PenMar Chairman Ronald Sulchek and members Elizabeth Morgan and George Griffin would be removed from the board as voting members, because they do not live in Washington County.

Morgan is the superintendent of Washington County Public Schools.

"I don't have heartburn over any of that," Snook said.

"Some of that is what the commissioners had requested," Snook said of the proposed changes.

Snook said the commissioners wanted the size of the board reduced and the authority to remove board members at their will.

Under the legislation, the commissioners would have the power the remove PenMar board members for cause only.

"I didn't think it was going to be that drastic," said Munson, who last summer called for the elimination of the PenMar Development Corp.

Seven of the 15 PenMar board members resigned in the fall, including several who claimed in-fighting and a clash of ideas with more recent board appointees were reasons for their leaving.

Del. Chris Shank, R-Washington, has spoken in favor of some of the board members who resigned. He has said problems with the PenMar board began when the commissioners appointed new members last year.

Wivell said he thought the proposed changes to the PenMar board were retaliation against some of those members.

"It's intended to get back at certain members of the board," Wivell said. "If they wanted some of us off the board, I'm sure all they had to do was ask."

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