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An odd path to victory for County Exec Johnson's nominees

(Nominee Mary Lou McDonough)

Three officials nominated by Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) to be permanent agency heads are going to get their posts. Nothing unusual there--nominees sent down from the exec's office pretty much always get confirmed by the County Council.

What was highly unusual, however, is the route the nominations took: The council held public hearings in its final session of the year Tuesday on all three, and then, without any explanation, adjourned without taking a vote. Under the county charter, that means the nominations will automatically go through, officials said. The three will be officially sworn in on Thursday.

The process leading up to the unusual conclusion was loaded with political theater, backroom discussions and big-name power brokers including U.S. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), whose spokeswoman confirmed that he personally made calls to council members in support of nominee Mary Lou McDonough.

Up for confirmation were McDonough as head of the department of corrections (she's married to Maryland Secretary of State John P. McDonough); James E. Johnson as head of the department of housing and community development; and Edward M. Scott as head of Central Services.

McDonough and Johnson's nominations had been rumored to be in jeopardy for weeks, and none of the three nominees received any recommendation from council members in committee--a sure sign something was amiss.

McDonough took over as acting corrections chief shortly before the death of inmate Ronnie White in his jail cell . She faced criticism following her nomination that she lacked a law enforcement background.

"It's kind of a smack in the face to us because she has no background in law enforcement or public safety," said Lt. Curtis Knowles, outgoing president of the Prince George's County Correctional Officers Association, earlier this week. He said a majority of officers polled recently opposed McDonough's nomination, and he suspected there was political pressure to confirm her because of her husband's stature.

However, at Tuesday's session, corrections union president-elect Lt. David Wall spoke in support of McDonough.

Johnson, meanwhile, took over as acting head of housing last year -- an agency historically plagued by inefficient handling of government grants. Last month, Johnson's department came within one day of losing more than $5 million in federal housing funds because of a failure to allocate them on time. The money was saved at the zero-hour, and county officials blamed one of James Johnson's underlings for the mishap, whom they said had since been reassigned.

Scott, meanwhile, appears to merely have been caught in the middle of the political crossfire.

Likely sensing the political hazards of weighing in on such controversial nominees--it could anger the union, the nominees' allies, or the county executive, depending on which way the vote went--the council took the unusual move of not voting at all.

Asked why after the session, outgoing Council Chairwoman Marilynn M. Bland (D-Clinton) said no agreement had been reached on the nominees in committee. Bland declined to say whether she supported McDonough's nomination.

"No consensus was really reached," Bland said. "So we just [preserved] the status quo."

(Want the administration's take on the nominees? Below are letters from County Exec Johnson on their careers, and why he nominated them.)

Mary Lou McDonough

James Johnson

Edward Scott

By Jonathan Mummolo  |  November 18, 2009; 11:33 AM ET
Categories:  Jonathan Mummolo , Prince George's County  
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Next: Pr. Geo's County Exec: No relation between Johnson & Johnson


I was wondering. Why is always an underling or a disgrutked employee who makes mistakes???

Posted by: PracticalIndependent | November 18, 2009 4:36 PM | Report abuse

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