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In Calvert, 2 Employees' Cases Show Board's Sway

By Amit R. Paley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 19, 2004; Page SM03

Two Calvert County workers were involved in personnel cases last week that provided a rare window on the elected county commissioners' influence over employees' careers.

In the first case, the commissioners left employee Steven E. Carle without many options in his grievance over being disciplined for sending e-mails to county employees.

Susan Shaw alone voted against reappointing clerk Mary S. Watson. (Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)

A four-member grievance board had decided unanimously that his two-day suspension without pay last month was an appropriate penalty for sending a political e-mail to hundreds of county workers.

Then, in a closed session Tuesday, the Board of County Commissioners voted 4 to 1 to accept the grievance board's recommendation to uphold the suspension.

"I'm obviously disappointed," said Carle, the county's computer service supervisor. "I just don't think those four employees [on the grievance board] would go against the commissioners."

Carle has said his suspension is "political payback" because the e-mails he sent contained letters opposing a question on the Nov. 2 general election ballot on whether to adopt code home rule government in Calvert. The measure, which would have expanded the board's legislative authority, was overwhelmingly rejected despite support from four of the five commissioners.

The most vocal opponent of code home rule, County Commissioner Linda L. Kelley (R-At Large), cast the sole vote Tuesday against Carle's suspension.

Commissioners President David F. Hale (R-Owings) said he supported the suspension because that was the recommendation of the grievance process.

"I'm not sure I've ever overturned a grievance board decision," he said.

Carle said the board's rejection of his appeal probably will end his attempts to reverse the suspension.

"I wish that were the case," said Commissioner Susan Shaw (R-Huntingtown), who supported Carle's suspension. "But I doubt it will be."

In the other personnel matter, many in county government were left wondering why the clerk to the county commissioners left the post after being reappointed this month by a 4 to 1 vote.

Mary S. Watson, the long-serving clerk to the Board of County Commissioners, abruptly resigned Dec. 7.

Watson, who had been clerk for 17 years, was reappointed that day with only Shaw dissenting.

Several hours later, Watson informed Hale that she planned to leave her position and take a job as an office specialist in the Department of Planning and Zoning.

As clerk, Watson was responsible for taking minutes on board meetings, collecting materials for the commissioners, and serving as a liaison between the board and the public.

Watson cleared out her office in the days after her notice to Hale, and she was not present at the commissioners meeting Tuesday.

Reached at her home, Watson declined to explain her reasons for leaving the job. "I look forward to my new position in a really nice atmosphere, a nice department," she said.

When asked why she voted against Watson, Shaw said, "That is a public relations job, and therefore it needs to be a person who has really good people public relations skills."

© 2004 The Washington Post Company