Johnson seeks to oust head of Prince George's planning board
Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson is trying to get rid of Samuel J. Parker, Jr. (right), the man he appointed to lead the county Planning Board, according to Parker and several county sources familiar with the matter.
Johnson wants to replace Parker, who has served since 2005, with Johnson's Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, David Byrd. If Byrd is confirmed for the four-year term, it will prevent the next county executive from choosing his or her own planning chairman for several years.
With a role in approving much of the county's development, the planning board chairman is one of the most powerful appointments a county executive can make. It is unusual for a lame duck executive to seek to remove a chairman of the Planning Board -- especially one he selected.
After hearing rumors that Johnson planned to replace him, Parker said he went to members of the County Council Thursday to find out if it was true, and that they confirmed it. Parker said he understands that he serves at the pleasure of the county executive, but he felt disrespected that Johnson had not talked to him about the ouster.
"I found out about it secondhand," Parker said. "My issue is not that it was done. It is how it was done. ... We have to get to a point where personality doesn't drive decisions or how you treat people."
Parker said he does not want to fight the ouster.
Byrd said he plans to meet with members of the council to discuss his nomination.
"I'm grateful that Mr. Johnson continues to have confidence in me to continue to serve the residents of Prince George's County in a capacity such as this," Byrd said during a recent interview.
As a newly-elected county executive, Johnson tried to get rid of former Planning Board Chairman Elizabeth M. "Betty" Hewlett -- an appointee of the previous county executive, Wayne Curry -- before her term was over. In order to do that, Johnson needed state legislation. The General Assembly approved the bill, which became known in Annapolis as the "Betty bill," but then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) killed it.
In Parker's case, the timing is even more unusual considering his term ended in June and he could simply remain in place until a new county executive is elected.
Byrd said that he did not know the circumstances surrounding Johnson's decision to get rid of Parker, and that he wouldn't speculate about them.
"The county executive decided to make a change," he said. "For a particular reason why he made it, you'll have to ask Mr. Johnson."
A request for comment made Saturday to Johnson's spokesman, John Erzen, was not returned.
Parker said he has begun a lot of initiatives that he had hoped to bring to fruition, including Envision, the county's ambitious plan to involve the community in developing a plan for the future and revising the county zoning code.
Sylvester Vaughns, vice chairman of the Planning Board, said over the last couple of days he had heard "scuttlebutt" about a replacement, but he didn't think it was true. He said it "would be most unfortunate" to lose Parker.
Meanwhile, Byrd said he looks forward to leading the board, if the council chooses to give him the opportunity.
"The process has begun and I look forward to meeting with members of the council and answering any questions and concerns they they might have," Byrd said.
-- Ovetta Wiggins and Jonathan Mummolo
February 21, 2010; 11:26 AM ET
Categories: 2010 Elections , Jonathan Mummolo , Prince George's County
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