Candidates spar over school board

October 07, 1994|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Sun Staff Writer

County executive candidates John G. Gary and Theodore J. Sophocleus clashed last night over Mr. Gary's proposal that the county executive should appoint school board members.

Mr. Gary, the Republican nominee, told an audience of about 120 Anne Arundel Bar Association members during a debate at the Loews Annapolis Hotel that the County Council should have the power to remove board members, a proposal his opponent said would lead to witch hunts.

Mr. Sophocleus, the Democratic nominee, said he prefers the current system of citizen nominating committees and ultimate appointment by the governor. "The nominating committees work," he said. "It works if you leave it alone."

Mr. Gary's proposal is part of his education plan that he released earlier in the day. He said that allowing the county executive to make school board appointments would bring more accountability to a group that many perceive has none.

Mr. Gary scoffed at the notion that the process would become more political if the county executive made the appointments instead of the governor.

"Anybody who believes the current process isn't political believes in the tooth fairy," he said.

Mr. Sophocleus called Mr. Gary's plan "the worst possible scenario."

"Every time a decision doesn't go our way we'd be going to our council person to pull a particular school board member off," Mr. Sophocleus said.

The two candidates covered some familiar territory, clashing over Mr. Sophocleus' vote to improve a pension plan for appointed and elected officials when he was on the County Council in 1990, a plan that includes him and his wife.

"That was an egregious vote and there's no excuse for it," Mr. Gary said.

But Mr. Sophocleus argued that he was only one of two council members who questioned the plan, which was approved by a 7-0 vote. He added that Mr. Gary has not been a very critical inquisitor on fiscally important votes in the House of Delegates, of which both men are members.

"He's voted for every single budget that came down that almost bankrupted the state of Maryland," Mr. Sophocleus said.

Both men said they would work to resolve conflicts between the fire administration and the county's volunteer firefighters. Mr. Gary said he would form a committee of three paid firefighters, three volunteer firefighters and himself to resolve any conflicts.

"We're going to make sure this issue is hammered out and resolved in the first year of my administration," he said.

The candidates for county state's attorney, Democratic incumbent Frank R. Weathersbee and Republican challenger John R. Greiber also debated, clashing on issues such as whether assistant prosecutors should be allowed to have outside practices and what can be done to speed cases through the judicial system.

Mr. Greiber criticized the length of time it takes a case to be tried in the bcounty, asserting it is longer than the state average, and that several cases have been dismissed because the state's attorney's office has exceeded the 180-day time limit.

Mr. Weathersbee said Mr. Greiber's background as a constitutional lawyer has not adequately prepared him to act as the county's top prosecutor.

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