When Thomas Benya wore his bolo tie to the McDonough High School graduation in violation of the school's dress code, his diploma was withheld. The school's initial decision attracted national attention. But a less noticed and perhaps more disruptive incident at the same event had a different result.

One of Benya's classmates pulled off his pants and hoisted them into the air to celebrate. That senior received his diploma.

Katie O'Malley-Simpson, the school system's spokeswoman, said a vice principal at the ceremony did his best to track down the student before he could receive his diploma.

"Had he found him beforehand, that child's diploma would have been held, and he would have had to come to school the next day,'' she said. "Trust me, they tried."

Part of Suit Is Dismissed

The Chesapeake Ranch Water Co. is not amassing a particularly impressive record in the courts.

In the latest of its legal defeats, part of the utility's lawsuit against the Calvert Board of County Commissioners was dismissed this week by a Circuit Court judge in Baltimore.

The lawsuit filed by the utility against Calvert County and the Maryland Department of the Environment said the county commissioners violated state law when they decided that the county, rather than Chesapeake, would provide water to the Lusby town center.

In a decision issued Monday, Judge Joseph H.H. Kaplan dismissed the first count of a lawsuit filed in December that related to environmental impact issues. Kaplan has yet to rule on the three other counts that were filed by Chesapeake in April.

"Obviously we don't agree with the judge's findings," said Stephen D. Ball, a lawyer for the Chesapeake Ranch Water Co. "We're not abandoning any rights to appeal."

Kaplan had dismissed a lawsuit in February that was filed by Chesapeake; that case has been appealed. The utility chose not to appeal a federal lawsuit that it lost in March before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit.

Emanuel Demedis, the Calvert County attorney, said he was pleased with the recent decision, though he cautioned that the legal battle could take at least two more years to wind through the courts.

Still, he added, "every time an obstacle is removed, you get closer to the end of the tunnel."

Bass Tournament Opens

Activities for the four-day Chevy Open bass fishing tournament began yesterday at Smallwood State Park in Marbury.

The contest is the final regular season event of the Forrest L. Wood championship and is Charles County's largest tourism event. Two hundred professionals and 200 amateurs are competing for $1.5 million in prize money.

Today's weigh-ins are at 3 p.m. at the park. Tomorrow's are at 5 p.m. and Saturday's at 3 p.m., both at the Wal-Mart in La Plata.

For more information, visit flwoutdoors.com or call 270-252-1000.

Beach Is Reopened

The beach at Point Lookout State Park in St. Mary's County that was closed June 15 after elevated levels of bacteria were found in the public swimming area reopened the next day when new tests showed bacteria levels had fallen.

The elevated levels of a bacteria associated with fecal contamination were found in tests done June 7, on a day when about 100 children on a school party were in the 400-foot public swimming portion of the beach, said Maryland Department of Natural Resources spokeswoman Megan Evans.

Of five sites checked that day, two had elevated levels of bacteria, said Leslie Payne, spokeswoman for the St. Mary's County Health Department. The levels may have been caused by "the large number of children and activity in the water . . . stirring up the bottom," Payne said.

The beach was closed after test results came in June 14. Further tests done that day showed no problems, and the beach was reopened June 16, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

"This has been completely resolved," Payne said.

Long Health Career Ends

Mary Wood served under five health officers during her tenure at the St. Mary's County Health Department before she retired this month.

What began as a secretarial job for the mental health program of the Health Department in 1971 evolved into a 34-year career. When she retired, she was department administrator.

"The Health Department looks very different now than it did back in the early '70s," Wood said in a statement announcing her retirement. "In 34 years, the Health Department has accomplished a lot and has evolved from an agency that provided many direct clinical services to one that is working to educate people and prevent health problems. . . ."

William Icenhower, the physician and county health officer who heads the department today, praised Wood. "Mary will be missed by the entire staff and especially me," he said. "She has a most congenial personality and exercised the finest common sense in running the Health Department."

Last week, Wood was honored during a luncheon at Olde Breton Inn in Leonardtown.

Wood said she is excited about being able to focus her full attention on her family and the Mechanicsville farm that has been in the family for 100 years.

Guard Band to Play July 8

Lunchtime strollers will be sharing the Town Square in Leonardtown with the Air National Guard Band of the Mid-Atlantic on July 8.

The band is scheduled to perform on the square from noon to 1:30 p.m. The program includes Gustav Holst's First Suite for Band and Franz von Suppe's "Light Cavalry Overture" along with more contemporary numbers such as Alfred Reed's "Jubilant Overture" and Robert Sheldon's "To Conquer the Skies."

Several marches are also on the concert program.

This year's featured soloist is Senior Airman Thomas Strawley, performing Mozart's Rondo for Clarinet. The band's combo will perform Bob Lowden's peppery "Dixieland Jam," and Staff Sgt. Lori Moyer, vocalist (and tubist), will sing Warren Barker's arrangement of the swing hit "More Than You Know." A big-band ensemble will play popular swing tunes.

The concert will include the performance of John Williams's "Hymn to the Fallen," a ballad transcribed from the soundtrack of the movie "Saving Private Ryan" and accompanied by text titled "Tribute to the American G.I.," which was written by former secretary of state and retired Gen. Colin L. Powell.

Admission is free.

Honor for St. Mary's

St. Mary's County was one of several jurisdictions recognized recently as a Preserve America Community by the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.

"To be recognized among the many communities nationwide for preserving our history and utilizing our cultural resources to inspire and educate our future generations is truly an honor," St. Mary's County commissioners President Thomas F. McKay (R-At Large) said in a statement announcing the award.

Communities designated through the program receive national recognition for their efforts to showcase preservation and heritage tourism efforts and are made eligible for proposed Preserve America grants that are being considered by Congress.

The council, an independent federal agency, promotes the preservation, enhancement and productive use of the nation's historical resources and advises the president and Congress on national historical preservation policy.

Staff writer Joshua Partlow contributed to this report.