Governor dumps most of city elections board

February 16, 1991|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- Last September, Baltimore's election office came under fire for a slow and inept job of tallying primary election returns. Yesterday, politicians who were embarrassed by that performance exacted their revenge.

Gov. William Donald Schaefer named three new members and two alternates to the city's board of election supervisors yesterday, dumping four out of five incumbents.

The list was included in the governor's "green bag" of patronage appointments traditionally presented to the state Senate in a green felt sack on the 40th day of their annual 90-day session.

The 47-page packet included about 260 appointments to state boards and commissions that require Senate confirmation.

Sources familiar with the election board appointments said Governor Schaefer, state election-laws administrator Gene M. Raynor and members of the city's Senate delegation were chiefly responsible for the shake-up.

The new board members, who earn $8,500 a year, are Doris M. Johnson and Linda Bowler Pierson. Stephen Medura, a board alternate, also was named to one of the three board seats.

Armstead Bernard Crawley Jones Sr. and Otis E. Lee Sr. were named as the new alternates. Ms. Johnson, Mr. Medura and Mr. Lee were nominated by the city's Democratic Central Committee. Ms. Pierson and Mr. Jones are Republican nominees. State law requires a member from the minority party be represented.

If approved by the Senate, the board members will begin their two-year terms on the first Monday in June.

A source who was involved in the nomination process but asked not to be named said the governor expects the new board to have greater control over the elections office and its administrator, Barbara E. Jackson.

One possibility, apparently discussed by the governor, Mr. Raynor and city senators, would involve the board's hiring a new administrator with authority over Ms. Jackson.

Ms. Jackson, a 24-year veteran of the election office and administrator for the past three years, said her agency has been unfairly criticized for its performance during the primary.

"I would rather not say how I feel about all this," said Ms. Jackson, whose job is protected under the state's merit system. "I don't think I can say any more, but I think we got a bad deal about the primary."

Marvin "Doc" Cheatham, an incumbent Democratic board member who was passed over by the governor, said he and the other ousted members "have some concerns about how this whole thing came about" but declined to comment further.

September's primary represented the first year the city used election-office workers rather than Police Department employees to count the vote. Unprepared for the transition, and using an office that was too small and stocked with too few computers, the city's final tally was delayed two days.

That irked candidates and their supporters, some of whom were ousted from the office during the hectic election night.

"I think major changes need to take place," said Sen. John A. Pica Jr., D-Baltimore, who came within a nail-biting 44 votes of defeat in the primary. "If the present management structure can live with those changes, everything will be fine."

In another green-bag appointment, former Sen. Frank J. Komenda of Temple Hills was named to the Prince George's County Board of License Commissioners. Mr. Komenda, who is also employed by an Annapolis lobbying firm, will earn $16,500 per year to help administer county liquor licenses.

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