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Posted at 12:43 PM ET, 02/ 1/2011

Prince George's Council delays action on Baker appointees

By Miranda Spivack

In a sign of growing tension over a proposed ethics bill from Prince George's County Executive Rushern L. Baker III that will be discussed in Annapolis at Prince George's Community College in Largo on Feb. 12, the Prince George's County Council on Tuesday blocked another Baker request -- extensions on the temporary appointments of several of his top officials.

Baker has said his ethics bill, which would limit the council's role on land use issues. is needed to avoid future "pay to play" deals. In the past, some council members delayed development proposals until they extracted concessions - and in some cases money for local projects - from developers. Baker has made ethics reform a centerpiece of his administration's early days, convening a panel to examine the county government's overall approach to ethics issues.

But council members, many of whom say ethics reform is needed, don't like the Baker proposal as it applies to them. Some, such as Mary Lehman (D-Laurel) and Mel Franklin (D-Upper Marlboro) say the bill, while well-meaning, would have the unintended effect of limiting residents' ability to appeal to the council for help winning modifications of a development proposal.

Others say they don't like the idea that the executive is limiting the powers of the legislative branch, which should be able to exercise its oversight powers when it chooses -- a view espoused by Council chairman Ingrid Turner (D-Bowie).

Turner announced Tuesday that the council was delaying until Thursday a request by Baker to extend the tenure of some of his temporary department heads. She said it was unrelated to the ethics bills, then added after the council session that some members wanted more information about the appointees, and in some cases wanted to meet with them.

Baker turned up unannounced at the council meeting and asked the council to extend the appointments to give his administration more time to vet permanent appointees for top jobs. But he was rebuffed, at least temporarily.

"We don't want to take any chances with anyone," Baker told the council, explaining why he needs more time to seek candidates to head agencies in the $2.7 billion county government. He took office Dec. 6.

By Miranda Spivack  | February 1, 2011; 12:43 PM ET
Tags:  prince george's county, rushern baker ethics  
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If the Council's influence in land use decisions is reduced, will the Executive be able to assert undue influence? Other Execs including Mr. Curry- Baker's transition chief- have personally railroaded through their pet projects or blocked what they did not like. It may depend on the strength of the Planning Board, who are appointed by the Executive. They have been shills forever. At the same time, the Council already has a lot of authority in land use, through bills that facilitate development (including spot zoning through text amendments) and through their role as the powerful District Council that must approve Planning Board recommendations.

Posted by: Towards_Light | February 2, 2011 12:17 AM | Report abuse

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