May 27, 2004

County Council President Christopher Coons said he will convene a special meeting of Council to, in his words, "shield taxpayers from further abuse and to ensure that their interests are protected."

The session is to be held on June 1, immediately after the Memorial Day weekend holiday.

He said he will seek enactment of five measures to give Council control of near-term public spending in the wake federal political corruption charges brought against County Executive Tom Gordon and Sherry Freebery, the county's chief administrative officer.

Coons's proposals, as listed in a prepared statement he issued on May 27, are:

"Freeze the county executive's various contingency funds -- totaling $2.58 million -- effective immediately.

"Place a 30-day freeze on promotions, transfers and terminations within county government without Council [receiving] notice and approval.

"Place a 90-day restriction on hiring within county government, during which Country Council will review and approve new hires.

"Require County Council review and approval of all expenditures exceeding $10,000 for a period of 180 days -- the current limit is $50,000.

"Require stronger notice and review by County Council of outside legal fees."

In his statement, Coons called the indictments handed up by a federal grand jury and announced by U.S. Attorney Colm Connolly "stunning in [their] scope."

He denied that Council had not acted to stave off abuse, citing a measure to strengthening the role of the county auditor and hiring "an independent and effective auditor"; reconstituting and strengthening the county Ethics Committee; and enactment of a 'whistleblower' ordinance to protect county employees who raise questions about or make allegations of wrongdoing.

Coons is seeking the Democratic Party nomination to run to succeed Gordon, who is ineligible for re-election. Freebery, who is Coons's opponent in the primary election campaign leading up to the nomination, has declared her innocence and said she will fight what she termed the politically-motivated charges.

2004. All rights reserved.

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