The Prince George's County Council is considering legislation that would allow the Council to remove one of its own members for excessive absences from Council meetings or failure to attend to Council business.
Although the bill, which is being discussed informally by Council members, is directed at Council member Darlene Z. White's repeated absences, other Council members expressed concern about its potential as a political weapon.
The measure, if approved by voters as a charter amendment, would allow eight of 11 members to remove another, after a public hearing.
Council member Francis B. Francois, who asked other members to consider the proposed legislation yesterday, said "the issue of attendance at meetings is nothing new. But it has been heightened in the last three or four months by problems we've had with one member of the Council. It brought the matter to a head."
White, who has been criticized in recent months by other Council members for her absences from many meetings, explained them as "personal. I did not know I had to have a sick slip to report to work." she said yesterday.
Francois said the charter currently has no provisions for removing an offending member for any reason. His proposal, he said, "is an attempt to grapple with the situation."
"I do more constituent work out of my office than any other Council member, I may not effect legislation (by my absence) but I help with people's problems directly, one on one."
White said she would support the Francois bill "if it is more specific. It is too broad in scope the way it is written now."
"This could become very political. What if three Democrats faced eight Republicans on the Council and one of the Democrats makes someone angry. What's to prevent them from removing him?"
White said she would like to see a second decision-making body involved in the removal of a Council member from office. "I prefer to let someone (other than the Council) do the deciding, perhaps the Board of Ethics. What does "the business of the Council" mean? I sit (at meetings) and watch members read the paper during sessions," she said.
Council member Parris N. Glendening supports White's proposal for an outside arbitrator.
"But after what's happened in recent months, it is absolutely imperative that something be done to provide for the removal of a Council member," said Glendening. "If we had some system now we probably would have invoked it this year."
The proposed amendment would go before voters in the 1978 general election if the bill passes the Council.
It states that "a Council member may forfeit his office for the failure to attend Council meetings or attend to Council business, where such failure constitutes an unreasonable refusal to act for an extended period of time."
The Council currently is controlled by a powerful Democratic Party organization allied with County Executive Winfield M. Kelly, Jr., State Sen. Steny H. Hoyer and attorney Peter F. O. Malley.