Sue V. Mills undertook two projects shortly after she was elected to the Prince George's County Council last fall. First, she ordered a chair for her office. Then she set out to change the connections on her phone line.
The first task took six weeks, the second three weeks, and a third -- mailing two sets of letters to constituents -- has been held up so long that Mills has launched an assault on what she calls the "bureaucratic red tape and gag rules" followed by the council.
Mills, who became well known for her outspoken conservatism during a stormy term on the County School Board, read a two-page statement into the record of yesterday's council neeting that recounted her frustrations "moving through the maze of what is commonly called the council procedure."
"I thought the school board was bad," Mills told reporters before the session. "But that was just a dry run."
Mills said she tried to order a chair for her office "that cost half of the one they told me I could get." Because the chair was not sold by a firm designated for chair sales, however, Mills said it took six weeks for her to get the inexpensive chair into her office.
Then, there was the question of phone lines. Mills said that when calls were placed to her office, they were channeled through three different persons before they rang at her desk. When she attempted to change her line to cut out some of the intermediaries, Mills said "you'd think I'd asked them to take out one of the floors of the building."
But what really made her angry, Mills told the council, was an informal office policy that prevented her from having more than 30 constituent letters typed on an automatic typewriter. "Can you imagine a past council approved a restriction on its members' ability to contact their constituents?" Mills asked her colleagues.
Council members seemed at once flustered and irritated by Mills' speech. Quietly, they informed her that a council resolution had limited the total number of automatic typewriter copies only to 500, rather than 30, and that she could have more than 30 copies if she desired.
Several council members added that the policy had been adopted when some members used the machine to send birthday greetings, graduation notices, and other "political messages" to their constituents.
"Hell, everything a politician does is political," Mills told reporters."Otherwise, they aren't doing their jobs."