Three Rockville City Council members have expressed interest in filling the unexpired term of Mayor John R. Freeland, who has announced that he will retire in mid-November.
Council members John Tyner II, Stephen N. Abrams and Viola Hovsepian said in interviews that they would each like to replace Freeland until November 1985, when the next city election is scheduled. The remaining council member, Douglas M. Duncan, who last month called for Freeland's resignation, said he was not interested in the position because it would fuel speculation that his earlier actions were politically motivated.
Under the city charter, the council is responsible for filling a mayoral vacancy, and may choose any city resident. Although council members said they would be willing to consider qualified residents outside of city government, they said they are inclined to pick a replacement from among themselves, citing their experience and knowledge of issues.
"We have six major items that this city must deal with within the next seven or eight weeks," Tyner said. "We cannot afford to have someone, very frankly, as deeply involved as the four of us up here. And with all due modesty, the citizens of this city aren't going to find any more highly qualified people than the four of us up here."
If one of the council members were to move to the mayor's position, three Rockville officials have said in interviews that they would like to be considered for the vacant council seat.
Those who have expressed interest in a council seat are Jeryl Gegan, chairman of Rockville's housing authority; Richard Arkin, a member of the city's board of appeals, and James Coyle, with the city's human rights commission.
Freeland, 51, who served as a City Council member for eight years before twice being elected mayor, said last week he would resign within a month because a promotion he expects from his employer, Eisinger-Kilbane & Associates, would take up some of the time he wants to spend with his wife, Marilyn, who is suffering from cancer.
Since June, when Freeland accepted a top-level position with Eisinger-Kilbane, a Bethesda-based development firm that does work in Rockville, critics charged his job is a conflict of interest because the firm often needs city approval on projects.
Freeland, who had pledged to refrain from city transactions involving the firm, said the controversy over his job played no part in his decision.
Freeland's resignation is contingent on when the council selects a replacement. In his letter of resignation, formally read at Monday's council meeting, Freeland wrote that he would stay on as mayor after Nov. 18 if the council had not chosen a replacement before then.
The council, amid some citizen opposition, met Monday in closed session to discuss the process by which a new mayor will be selected. Another closed meeting is scheduled Thursday. Some political observers said they thought the council, left divided by the fierce controversy over Freeland's job, would be unable to choose a council member to fill the mayoral position.
"I think the council has got a real serious problem on its hands," Freeland said last week. "I don't know how the hell they're going to pick a replacement. Because if I understand all of them as well as I think I do, none of them will support each other."