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Miller v. County Commissioners of

Decided: July 17, 1961.


Appeal from the Circuit Court for Carroll County; Boylan, Jr., C. J.

Brune, C. J., and Henderson, Prescott, Horney and Marbury, JJ. Brune, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court.


Richard K. Miller, et al., residents and taxpayers of Carroll County, appeal from a decree dated August 31, 1960, dismissing their bill of complaint filed July 22, 1959, in which they sought a declaratory decree declaring null and void both a Resolution of the Board of County Commissioners of Carroll County (the Commissioners) creating the position of "Technical Assistant to the Commissioners" and the appointment of George A. Grier to that post. In addition to the declaratory relief so sought the appellants prayed that the Commissioners and Grier, the appellees, be preliminarily and permanently enjoined from effectuating any of the provisions of the Resolution and from paying to Grier out of public funds, or Grier's receiving from such funds, any of the salary stipulated in the Resolution. As a final prayer the appellants sought "such other and further relief as the nature of their cause may warrant or require." Under this prayer they now seek a decree requiring Grier to repay to the County all amounts paid to him as salary on the ground that such amounts were illegally paid.

The events leading up to the filing of the appellants' bill are clear and undisputed, though the motives behind the Commissioners' actions are viewed differently by the appellants and the appellees. This case seems to be a by-product of the processes of change and transition which often accompany the spread of suburban population and industrialization into communities which have previously been predominantly agricultural. As we read this record, we find the Commissioners well aware of their own limitations in dealing with such problems and of their need for expert advice and assistance in meeting them. Grier was the man whom they selected as well qualified to give them such help. Their overall purpose impresses us as entirely proper; their methods of accomplishing the early appointment of Grier are the target of

strong attacks by the appellants and they present serious problems.

The present case grows out of Ch. 304 of the Acts of 1959, approved April 3 and effective June 1 of that year. This Act was proposed by a bill introduced by the Senator from Carroll County at the request of the Commissioners. It repealed Section 45 B of the Public Local Laws of Carroll County, enacted in 1957, providing for the appointment of a county manager and enacted a new Section 45 B in lieu thereof reading in part as follows:

"The County Commissioners of Carroll County are hereby authorized to appoint an Executive or Administrative Assistant to the County Commissioners, who shall receive such compensation and have such powers and duties as shall be determined and prescribed by said Commissioners. His term of office shall not extend beyond the term of the Board making the appointment, but he shall be eligible to reappointment * * *. The person so selected shall be a registered voter and taxpayer in Carroll County." (Italics supplied.)

The new section further provides that the person appointed shall take the constitutional oath of office, that he may be required to give bond for the faithful performance of his duties and that his services may be terminated by the Commissioners on two months' written notice.

Why the Commissioners thought this local statute necessary in the light of the general powers conferred upon County Commissioners by Code (1957), Art. 25, ยงยง 1 and 3, (under which they later undertook to act), is not readily apparent. Nor is the reason for inserting the voter and taxpayer requirement, for at the very time Ch. 304 was going through the legislative process the Commissioners were considering or negotiating for Grier's employment, though they knew him to be a resident of Harford County and neither a voter nor a taxpayer of Carroll County.

Sometime in March of 1959 the Commissioners contacted

Grier and discussed his duties in Harford County and whether he would be willing to leave his position in Harford County for a position with similar duties in Carroll County. As a result, on April 15, 1959, Grier sent the County Commissioners the following letter:

"You will remember that I indicated last week that a letter would be forthcoming from me setting forth my understanding of the position for which your Board has asked me to consider. You will find below a summary of this understanding:

1. The position would generally be known as 'Executive Assistant to the Board of County Commissioners.'

2. The position would carry with it a responsibility solely to the Board of County Commissioners of Carroll County.

3. General duties would include the following:

(a) supervise the general administration of the County Commissioners' office.

(b) recommend official policies for consideration and adoption by the County Commissioners.

(c) upon adoption of any such policies by the County Commissioners, the position would carry with it the responsibility to see that these policies were executed by all agencies, departments or ...

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