In a move that drew praise from lawyers but heat from blacks anxious for minority appointments, a former Baltimore County school board president was named yesterday to the $70,304-a-year post of Baltimore County attorney.
H. Emslie "Lee" Parks was appointed by Republican County Executive Roger B. Hayden, who served with Mr. Parks on the school board in the 1970s.
Mr. Parks, 60, replaces Arnold Jablon, a former schoolteacher and zoning commissioner who was appointed county attorney in 1987 by former Democratic County Executive Dennis F. Rasmussen.
Mr. Jablon will stay on as chief deputy in the office, which has 26 attorneys.
Mr. Parks, a Republican and a senior partner in the Towson firm of Parks, Hansen and Ditch, is the son of a lawyer and has extensive trial experience in the state and federal courts. He served as a member of the Baltimore County school board from1964 to 1975 and was board president from 1971 to 1975, where he worked with Mr. Hayden in his last two years in office.
Becoming county attorney is "a new challenge for me, and I'm excited about it," he said.
A Baltimore native and a registered Republican, Mr. Parks was raised in the Catonsville area and lived in the Woodstock area until about 18 months ago, when he moved to Hunt Valley. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland Law School.
"I don't think Roger Hayden could have made a better choice," said John B. Howard, a partner in charge of the Towson office for Venable, Baetjer and Howard, who has known Mr. Parks for 30 years.
But the appointment, subject to confirmation by the County Council, sparked criticism yesterday from black leaders, who met with Mr. Hayden a month ago to push for more minority
hiring and focused on the county attorney's post.
"Mr. Hayden will definitely be hearing from us," said Wyatt Coger, president of the Coalition of African-American Organizations.
Since taking office in December, Mr. Hayden has replaced six department heads, named a new fire chief and county administrator and appointed a communications director and five new members of his executive staff. None of the appointees is black.
The coalition had been focusing on the county attorney's post because it was one of the few jobs still open at the time of the Feb. 11 meeting. At Mr. Hayden's request, the group submitted the resumes of six minority attorneys for his consideration.
Dunbar Brooks, who is a member of the school board and a community activist in Dundalk, added that many minorities were frustrated not just with the lack of high-level appointments but also with shortfalls in county hiring practices across the board.
"I'm not looking for symbols. I'm more concerned about a comprehensive approach to the issue," Mr. Brooks said.
Adrienne Jones, an executive assistant to Mr. Hayden and director of the Office of Minority Affairs/Fair Practices, said 10 percent of the county's 8,500 employees were black, short of the county's 12.3 percent black population.