Glendening plans to name Simms to Cabinet post

January 06, 1995|By Marina Sarris and Jay Apperson | Marina Sarris and Jay Apperson,Sun Staff Writers Sun staff writer David Michael Ettlin contributed to this report.

Gov.-elect Parris N. Glendening will name Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms to his Cabinet as secretary of juvenile justice, according to sources in both the incoming and departing administrations.

Mr. Simms was unopposed in his re-election as the city's top prosecutor two months ago. He is expected to be named next week to head the agency, which has more than 1,000 employees and a budget of $108 million, the sources said. He would replace Mary Ann Saar.

He would lead a high-profile agency that provides programs, including incarceration, for thousands of delinquent youngsters. HTC Last month, Mr. Glendening announced that he would change the agency's name from Juvenile Services to Juvenile Justice -- a symbolic gesture "to make it clear that our purpose is not to serve juvenile offenders, but to deter, punish and then rehabilitate."

Mr. Simms would not confirm the appointment last night, but said he had "spoken to the governor-elect at some length on a wide range of criminal justice issues" and "I was just flattered to be considered."

Mr. Glendening declined to comment.

The appointment would leave the choice of a new city state's attorney in the hands of Baltimore's Circuit Court judges -- the way Mr. Simms got the job in 1987. He was a deputy prosecutor when his mentor, then-State's Attorney Kurt L. Schmoke, was elected mayor.

Joseph H. H. Kaplan, administrative judge of the city Circuit Court, said last night that he had no inkling Mr. Simms might be leaving office. "There was always talk he would go off in the Clinton administration, and when that didn't come to pass, I didn't think about it anymore."

In a job that can be a magnet for controversy, Mr. Simms has emerged largely unscathed. A special city grand jury's report in March 1993 expressed doubts about the willingness of the prosecutor's office to pursue politically connected suspects in drug cases. But an investigation by Maryland's special prosecutor cleared him of any wrongdoing.

More recently, Mr. Simms has been criticized by some residents and lawyers for the Fraternal Order of Police for his handling of police brutality allegations.

Two years ago, the Clinton administration included him among the candidates to head the Drug Enforcement Administration. But he did not get that appointment, or another for which he was a contender -- U.S. attorney for Maryland.

If Mr. Simms leaves his job as state's attorney, the successor to be chosen by the judges could serve until the 1998 election.

The leading candidate to replace Mr. Simms would likely be Patricia C. Jessamy, one of his two deputies. She said last night that she knew nothing of plans for Mr. Simms to take a job in the Glendening administration. She added, "I would think that I would want to be considered [for city state's attorney] if those things happen."

Ms. Jessamy, a 46-year-old native of Hollandale, Miss., has been a deputy state's attorney since 1987. She is in charge of the office's budget and personnel matters affecting 146 lawyers and 109 support workers. She oversees the divisions that specialize in investigating and prosecuting sexual offenses, narcotics cases and economic crimes. She also is responsible for the violent crimes unit.

She joined the office in 1985 as a prosecutor in the economic crimes unit, which handles embezzlement and arson cases. She later headed that unit for 16 months, before being promoted to deputy state's attorney.

She prosecuted John T. Kahl Jr., a former insurance agent who in 1988 was sentenced to seven years in prison for stealing more than $600,000 in city insurance payments. She also prosecuted Anthony J. Dease, sentenced in 1987 to five years in prison for stealing $78,000 from the Shake 'n' Bake recreational facility.

Ms. Jessamy previously worked as a prosecutor in Michigan, and was in private practice, handling criminal defense work and civil cases, in Michigan and in Mississippi. She earned her law degree in 1974 from the University of Mississippi Law School. She earned undergraduate degrees from Jackson State University.

The other deputy state's attorney in the city, Alexander J. Palenscar, said last night that he didn't think he would be eligible for the job because he doesn't live in Baltimore. "I think Patricia Jessamy would be the logical one to be considered," he said.

Mr. Simms is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Harvard University Law School. He was the staff counsel for Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, a Maryland Democrat, in 1977 and 1978, and was an assistant U.S. attorney from 1978 to 1982.

Long associated politically with Mr. Schmoke, Mr. Simms is widely viewed as having his own mayoral ambitions -- although he has not made such an interest known for this year's municipal election.

Asked last night whether he had thoughts of an mayoral bid in years to come, Mr. Simms said, "I haven't ruled anything in. I haven't ruled anything out."

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke -- who is challenging Mr. Schmoke for the mayoral job this year -- said of the expected Simms appointment: "It's wonderful for Baltimore City to have such an outstanding leader in a position that is crucial to the future of so many of our children."

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