The latest story in the trials and tribulations of Anne Arundel County came last night. We all knew that the Anne Arundel County Council was going to select a new county executive to replace John Leopold, who resigned after being found guilty of misconduct in office. We all knew that it was going to come down to a choice between Delegate Steve Schuh and Acting County Executive John Hammond.
Except it didn’t. At 10 am Friday morning, Laura Neuman will be sworn in as Anne Arundel County Executive.
Until yesterday, many had absolutely no idea who Laura Neuman was. Still, she has a intriguing
, and inspiring life story. She appears to have done fantastic work in her current job running the Howard County Economic Development Authority.
By law the the council was required to select a Republican county executive. However, other than meeting the legal qualifications for serving as county executive long-time Republican activists living in Anne Arundel County know little about the political leanings or loyalty of their new highest ranking Republican official.
Neumann has made one political donation in her life. A $1,000 donation, this past December, Howard County Executive Ken Ulman. Ulman is a Democrat, who is running for Governor.
This gives Republicans a tremendous sense of trepidation and uneasiness with the politics of their new, ostensibly Republican, county executive. Given the way in which the selection process worked, Democrats essentially chose the new Republican county executive.
This episode clearly shows Anne Arundel’s vacancy selection process is broken. The Anne Arundel County Charter requires that the county council serve as the only body to fill a vacancy for county executive or among the members of the council. Twice in the last year we have seen that the council often breaks down and has trouble selecting the best candidate instead of the most politically expedient one. In the case with the Council 1 vacancy, it took 106 ballots to break the tie between Peter Smith and Mike Wagner.
The county executive vacancy was a gigantic mess of an affair. Both Councilmen John Grasso and Jerry Walker intended to apply, but chose not to based on an ethics opinion. Grasso intends to run for County Executive in 2014 anyway. Councilman Fink was business partners with Delegate Schuh until late this afternoon, when Schuch stepped down from the business in order to remove a potential conflict of interest.
This left the three Democrats on the council who were in the position to select a candidate who was either the weakest candidate to run for re-election, or a candidate who was a registered Republican who was more sympathetic to their world view. At this point, Laura Neuman could fit either of those criteria.
This is no way to run a government.
It’s time for special electionsto fill vacancies, at the very least on the Anne Arundel County Council. We can no longer afford for county government to get distracted and divided by the parochialism and opportunities for career advancement that inevitably take precedence when vacancies like these pop up. We must figure out a way to have an orderly succession to an interim county executive and then towards a short election process (perhaps conducted solely by mail-in ballot) to allow the people the right to pick their county executive.
No matter how the process unfolds from here, Anne Arundel County cannot afford to have another spectacle like this one.
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