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City Council May Weigh in on Termination of County Health Officer

Annapolis' aldermen and women debated a bill supporting Angela Wakhweya as she faces removal from office from by Anne Arundel County Council.

The debate over whether to fire Angela Wakhweya, Anne Arundel County's health officer, has spilled over to the Annapolis City Council.

At its Monday night meeting, the Council spent nearly 30 minutes discussing whether it would vote on a resolution supporting Wakhweya's continued service at the agency.

"I just simply have not heard any negatives associated with Dr. Wakhweya," said Alderman Ken Kirby (D-6th Ward), who drafted the bill.

County Council hasn't heard any negatives either, which is why they postponed voting on her dismissal at their Jan. 7 meeting until someone from Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene provides an explanation.

Joshua Sharfstein, the state Secretary of Mental Health and Hygiene, sent a letter to County Executive John Leopold on Jan. 3 asking him to put forth a bill to discharge Wakhweya.

He wrote that it would be "in the best interest" of the county remove the doctor because "the Department has lost confidence she can lead the Health Department effectively at this time."

Sharfstein's letter offered no explanation as to why the state has lost confidence in Wakhweya, calling the matter a personnel issue.

County Council members balked at the idea of firing someone without knowing why, just as some of Annapolis' aldermen balked at the idea of supporting Wakhweya without understanding what happened.

"I think we should have information about why the lady is being dismissed and until we get information, I think it would be premature," said Alderman Richard Israel (D-1st Ward).

Wakhweya's attorney Levi Zaslow told Patch earlier this month that his client's dismissal had racial undertones to it, saying jokes were made about the pronunciation of her name and her cultural heritage.

Several African-American community leaders spoke during the public comment portion of Monday night's meeting to voice their support for Wakhweya. The doctor herself even testified and highlighted some of the work she has done for the city on HIV prevention and obesity.

"I appreciate that you put forward the resolution," Wakhweya said.

A resolution usually comes before Council at three meetings before a vote is taken, but Alderwoman Classie Hoyle (D-4th Ward) moved that the Council suspend the rules and vote on the resolution Monday night.

"This to me seems to be time sensitive. The County Council will vote on this Jan. 22," Hoyle said. "We need something to go to the County Council from the city if we are going to be supportive by the 22nd."

The vote to suspend needed to be unanimous.

Alderman Fred Paone (R-2nd Ward) voted against the suspension. He also questioned whether it was appropriate for Annapolis to weigh in on a county issue.

“The County Council, to my knowledge, has never said, ‘Unless you get that Market House straightened out, we’re not going to support you,’” Paone said. "My sense of fairness is very much offended if they are trying to fire somebody for no reason, but I am not here to always give my personal opinion on things."

He thought Council members with strong opinions on the issue would be better off voicing their support to the County Councilman who represents them.

Annapolis will likely vote on the resolution in two weeks, but Wakhweya may already be out of a job by then.

See also:

  • County Asked by State to Terminate Health Officer
Nancy W. Gist January 16, 2013 at 01:50 PM
What and where are Sharfstein's facts and explanations? How does Sharfstein determine what is "in the best interest" of the county?

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