By Ken de la Bastide
Tribune enterprise editor
The Howard County Council voted Tuesday to change procedures for filling vacancies in county offices and departments.
Department heads and elected officials are no longer required to appear before the council to fill a position. The move ended a policy that has been used since 2009.
In 2008, the county council passed a policy requiring council approval to fill positions left vacant by retirements or resignations.
Over the past four years, many department heads and elected officials appeared before the council, asking permission to fill a position that was included in the budget but vacant at that time. In most cases, the council allowed those positions to be filled.
Councilman Stan Ortman said Tuesday it was taking the council’s time and the time of the department head or elected official to appear before the council to fill a position that already exists in the budget.
Councilman James Papacek agreed with Ortman’s position.
“I can’t imagine any department in the county has an excess of employees,” Papacek said. “We don’t want to micromanage the departments or county offices.”
Councilman Jeff Stout said he didn’t believe the department head or officeholder should be required to appear before the council to fill a position.
He did ask for information on how much turnover was taking place among county employees and from which offices.
The council voted unanimously to change the procedure.
Commissioner Paul Wyman, who proposed the hiring freeze as a member of the county council in 2008, said the burden now falls on the elected official or department head.
Wyman said each officeholder or department head will have to evaluate and determine whether the position is really needed for the day-to-day operations of the office or department.
“We hope they will make good decisions,” he said.
The discussion came up after council members approved requests from Superior Court 4 Judge George Hopkins and Prosecutor Mark McCann to fill vacant positions in their respective offices.
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