Controversy over one councilman's outside employment could lead to the election of the first woman to chair the Baltimore County Council in more than two decades.
Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a freshman Democrat from Reisterstown, appears to be the odds-on favorite to succeed Councilman John Olszewski Sr., the current council chairman, according to multiple sources familiar with the council.
Unlike the Baltimore City Council president, who is selected by voters in a city-wide election, the County Council elects a chairperson to a one-year term from amongst its seven members. Typically the position is controlled by the council's majority party.
The largely administrative job pays $6,000 more than the council salary of $54,000. That temporary salary bump is used to calculate pensions, which are based on the highest annual salary earned.
Sources said Almond became the favorite to lead the council a few weeks ago after Patch reported that Councilman Ken Oliver had held a job with the state Department of Business and Economic Development. The County Charter prohibits council members from holding state jobs during their terms in office.
The job, coupled with a 2009 case in which Oliver pleaded guilty to taking money from his campaign account and received probation before judgement, caused a number of members to question the affect of naming Oliver chairman would have on public perceptions about the council, sources told Patch.
Prior to the reports of the state job, Oliver was considered likely to lead the council in 2012—becoming the first black to chair the County Council. Almond and Councilman Tom Quirk, a freshman Democrat from Catonsville, were to chair the council in 2013 and 2014, respectively, the sources said.
Now a new schedule has Almond likely to be named to chair the council when the legislators hold their first meeting of 2012. Quirk would likely chair the council in 2013 with Councilwoman Cathy Bevins, a freshman Democrat from Oliver Beach, chairing the body in 2014, the sources said.
Such schedules are not uncommon on the council.
Olszewski, the current chairman, is finishing his fourth turn leading the council. Previously, he served once in each of the terms between 1998 and 2010 in a rotation with then-Councilmen Joseph Bartenfelder, Kevin Kamenetz and Sam Moxley, all Democrats. The four rotated through the position over the 12 year period.
During the 1994 to 1998 term, Bartenfelder, Kamenetz and Moxley teamed with Councilman Vince Gardina to control the seat.
The council will hold its first meeting of 2012 at 6 p.m. on Jan. 3.