Panel endorses Lighthizer nomination

January 22, 1991|By M. Dion Thompson | M. Dion Thompson,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- O. James Lighthizer, former Anne Arundel County executive, was unanimously endorsed for state secretary of transportation yesterday over the objections of some of his former constituents.

"I'm asking you to perform what is probably a no-no," Greg Broglie, told the members of the Senate's Executive Nominations Committee. "The Senate rejected Judge Bork for the Supreme Court. There's no reason why you can't have courage enough to reject this nomination instead of rubber-stamping it."

Mr. Lighthizer, who was a state delegate from Anne Arundel County before becoming the county's executive in 1982, was recently named transportation secretary by Gov. William Donald Schaefer, but the nomination must be confirmed by the Senate. The job pays $105,215 a year.

Mr. Broglie, one of two Anne Arundel residents who spoke against Mr. Lighthizer's nomination, said he was disturbed by Mr. Lighthizer's tax-and-spend policies.

He asserted that even if the law had allowed Mr. Lighthizer to run for another term as county executive, there was no way he could have won.

"He'd have lost like Bobo and Rasmussen did," said Mr. Broglie, referring to Elizabeth Bobo and Dennis F. Rasmussen, the former Howard County and Baltimore County executives, who lost in the last election.

Then, Mr. Broglie said, there was the matter of a 100-page book entitled "The Lighthizer Years." The four-color book, which cost county taxpayers more than $117,000, details the achievements of Mr. Lighthizer's administration from 1982 to 1990.

Mr. Broglie said the book was nothing more than Mr. Lighthizer's "patting himself on the back."

Many county residents viewed the book as an example of Mr. Lighthizer's penchant for self-promotion and his spending policies. Robert C. Schaeffer, president of the Anne Arundel Taxpayers Association, said Mr. Lighthizer almost doubled the county budget and spent money on such things as $700 park benches and a $1 million skating rink.

Mr. Schaeffer also complained that Mr. Lighthizer never considered reducing programs or expenditures.

But Mr. Schaeffer and Mr. Broglie were alone in their dissent. Several senators spoke favorably about Mr. Lighthizer and his achievements. Senate Minority Leader John A. Cade, R-Anne Arundel, said Mr. Lighthizer turned the county around and left it with a $50 million surplus.

"I'm not going to stand here and say Mr. Lighthizer hasn't made any mistakes," said Mr. Cade. "But show me someone who hasn't made a mistake, and I'll show you someone who has died."

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