Changes in Personnel Rules Needed to Cover Gardner Appointments

George Wenschhof

I listened with interest as Frederick County Executive Jan Gardner(D) made her announcement on Wednesday of five appointments.

Other than the interim hire of Mike Gastley as budget director, I wondered if the council would approve the other appointments.  Interestingly, newly elected council president Bud Otis(R) said during the press announcement the county executive should be able to hire her staff.

However, he neglected to note the charter calls for confirmation by the council of appointments by the county executive, except for interim appointments.  Interim appointments cannot last longer than six months.

Gardner began her announcement by saying she would be keeping Mike Marschner as special projects manager and adding Margaret Nusbaum as another special projects manager.  Both positions she added would be part time.

Neither was a surprise.  Mike Marschner prepared the power point presentation that promoted the county building an Incinerator. Gardner who was then president of the board of county commissioners also strongly supported the building of an incinerator.  She would go on to write 4 columns on my Blog, arguing against fellow Democratic commissioner Kai Hagen, who opposed this action.

Nussbaum was Gardner’s campaign manager during her run for county executive.

Janice Spiegel was appointed to the new position of education liaison to work with the board of education and Frederick Community College as Jan put it.

Roger Wilson was named to a new position serving as government policy/affairs and liaison to work with government entities.  A position previously held by David Dunn, who previously served in an “at-will” position.

Gardner admitted the new positions exceeded current budget allotments, but she was comfortable the money could be found to cover the expense.

Her final appointment was Mike Gastley, who she made a point to state she was naming him as interim Budget Director.

The charter allows for a temporary appointment to be made by the county executive without council approval, providing it does not last more than 6 months.  In this case, with the need to submit a county budget looming, an interim appointment for this position is understood.

Appointments made by the county executive to other positions require confirmation by the council.  The charter also states if the council takes no action within 30 days of said appointments, the appointments will be deemed approved.

Curiosity led me to call county attorney John Mathias to ask him if the Gardner appointments needed council approval.  He referred me to Human Resources Director Mitch Hose, who told me changes in personnel policy were being written to cover these appointments.

I asked Hose if Gardner acted before the changes were made and he said yes.  I also asked if council approval was needed for these personnel changes and he said yes, but he saw no problem in receiving council approval. We both agreed had she hired all the positions on a temporary basis, it would have been permitted, up to six months before council approval would need to be obtained.  We both also agreed she did not state this in her announcement.

The county executive should be allowed to hire staff and make appointments to board/commissions.

However, checks and balances of council confirmation are necessary to ensure public confidence against political cronyism and to keep an eye on the budget.

This is an interesting start to charter in Frederick County.  Will the council rubber stamp the proposed personnel changes to support the hires made by Gardner or take no action for 30 days and allow the appointments to become permanent?

Stay tuned.

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