Sunday, September 7, 2003

Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson announced late last week that Michael Arrington, his chief of legislative affairs, has resigned from his post.

Mr. Johnson said Mr. Arrington will continue to be an unpaid adviser to the county executive and assist the administration on a number of projects. The resignation comes less than a month after The Washington Post reported that Mr. Arrington owed more than $100,000 in federal income taxes.

mGreat debate

Candidates for Baltimore’s Democratic primary took turns criticizing Mayor Martin O’Malley on Thursday, hitting on such topics as drug crime, education, unemployment and the city’s rat problem.

Andrey Bundley, a high school principal who is Mr. O’Malley’s most prominent challenger, accused the mayor of using “smoke and mirrors” to exaggerate reductions in crime. He also said Mr. O’Malley doesn’t want to stay in Baltimore and is more interested in running for governor in 2006.

“You have to want to be in this city first,” Mr. Bundley said, as supporters cheered loudly in an auditorium at the Enoch Pratt Free Library during the two-hour debate.

Mr. O’Malley continued to tout statistics indicating that Baltimore has reduced crime faster than any other city in the nation during his first term. He also pointed to $1.6 billion in new construction in the city as evidence that businesses were confident about investing in the city.

But the mayor said he will do more to go after drug dealers if he wins a second term.

“These are the days of progress,” he said. “I’m excited about the years ahead. I’m proud of what we’ve done in the years past, but we have a lot of work still to do.”

As for whether he would serve out a full second term, Mr. O’Malley repeated the answer he gave at the first debate, saying he would remain mayor as long as he had the passion for the job, as long as his wife said it was OK and as long as residents supported him.

Moderators Mark Steiner of WYPR-FM and Anthony McCarthy of WEAA-FM frequently had to ask for quiet from a vocal and noisy audience during the debate. It was the last of three debates before the primary tomorrow.

Mr. Bundley’s supporters often booed the mayor, prompting moderators to ask them to respect his time to speak. But Mr. O’Malley had his supporters, too, many clad in green-and-white T-shirts imprinted with his name.

Mr. Bundley, who is making his first run for office, said he wanted to spend more money on education and after-school programs for inner-city youth to keep them away from drug dealers.

“We can’t police our way out of this problem,” he said.

Candidates Marvin Jones and Robert Kaufman also participated in the debate.

Mr. Jones, in his closing statement, said he was asking supporters to vote for Mr. Bundley instead of him.

• Keep away

A judge in Salisbury, Md., on Friday ordered the 22-year-old daughter of the city’s mayor to stay away from a City Council member, after the two tussled in the parking lot of a government office building downtown.

Council member Rachel Polk filed second-degree assault charges against Catherine Somerfield “Casey” Tilghman after the confrontation Wednesday night.

The mayor’s daughter was formally served with a summons Thursday afternoon and is ordered to appear in court Oct. 6, the Salisbury Daily Times reported.

Witnesses said Mayor Barrie Parsons Tilghman was with her daughter at the time, but was not part of the altercation with Miss Polk, who is seeking re-election this fall.

In charging documents filed in state District Court in Wicomico County, Miss Polk said that Casey Tilghman cursed at, shoved and kicked the council member as the mayor stood nearby. The mayor declined to comment to the newspaper, and her daughter was unavailable to comment, the paper reported.

Miss Polk told police that the altercation occurred after the mayor confronted a former council member. Miss Polk said she intervened, and the mayor’s daughter got involved.

• Crunch time

Next year’s legislative session will be a do-or-die year for slot machines in Maryland.

That’s according to Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch, who spoke Friday to a group of newspaper editors and publishers.

Mr. Busch said he thinks there will be some kind of resolution. He did not offer any predictions about the outcome of “a highly volatile and contentious issue.”

Mr. Busch said the legislature and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. also will be under pressure during the session, which begins in January, to do something about the state’s long-range financial problems.

• Out of jail

Former Henry County, Va., Administrator Sid Clower was released from a state prison Tuesday after serving 400 days, or one day for every $2,045 he stole from the Henry County Public Service Authority.

Clower began a 90-day work release program at a Chatham, Va., diversion center. Once he completes that, he still will owe at least $621,686 in restitution to the PSA.

He served his time at the Rustburg Correctional Unit.

Clower, who pleaded guilty to three counts of embezzlement, was hired in 1991 as general manager of the PSA, which controls county water and sewer service. In 1996, he assumed a second role as county administrator.

• No conflict

Maryland House Speaker Michael E. Busch has been advised that he is not violating Anne Arundel County ethics laws by holding dual positions as a legislator and a county employee.

County Attorney Linda Schuett sent Mr. Busch a letter last month saying he does not fall under the jurisdiction of the county ethics law in his role as a member of the House.

“There is no doubt that the [ethics] commission is without authority to review the actions of a state legislator, even though that legislator is an employee of the local government,” the letter said.

It said that “any other conclusion might result in local government exercising power in a way that interferes with state governmental functions.”

Mr. Busch, a Democrat, is one of several lawmakers who hold local government jobs. He is the deputy director of recreation and parks for the county.

Mr. Busch said the letter “clears up any doubt” about his employment situation.

“I’m just glad this whole thing is behind us,” he said. “The law has been clear as far as I’m concerned.”

The county attorney’s letter agrees with the findings of the state Attorney General’s Office, which issued a letter in June concluding that legislators should not come under local ethics laws when performing their official state duties.

• Appointments

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. appointed 21 persons to a newly formed commission that will look for ways to provide affordable housing to people who have been priced out of the market, he announced Friday.

The panel, led by Department of Housing and Community Development Secretary Victor Hoskins, will include state Sen. Sharon M. Grosfeld, Montgomery County Democrat, and Delegate Doyle L. Niemann, Prince George’s County Democrat.

The commission will submit a report to the governor next September and a final report in December 2004, the governor’s office said.

• This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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