Gary's Rough Start

January 17, 1995

Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary is getting off to an inauspicious start with his political appointments. Unless he's careful, it could have an impact on his credibility.

Only a few weeks into his term, Mr. Gary has made several questionable appointments. First, the Republican county executive announced his selection of Thomas Maxwell as his full-time liaison with the county school board, the community college and the library administration.

Mr. Maxwell is a former elementary school principal who served as a substitute teacher after his retirement. But local school officials in Anne Arundel removed his name from the substitute list after he was alleged to have thrown a child up against a locker and to have used profanity in an elementary school class.

Then Robert Beck, Mr. Gary's acting police chief, exhibited a penchant for pettiness when he transferred a dozen police officers recently. It seems that some of the officers were moved simply because the chief didn't like them, not because they had done anything wrong.

Now come news stories that Mr. Gary's newly appointed county attorney, Phillip F. Scheibe, secretly bought and sold Anne Arundel County land for personal profit when he held the same job 25 years ago.

Mr. Scheibe made an estimated $52,000 when he used a friend as a front man to buy surplus county land at public auction and resold the land a short time later for several times what he paid for it. His dealings became known when his partner sued for his share of the profits.

Although Mr. Scheibe apparently violated no criminal laws when he bought and sold the county land, his actions raise serious ethical concerns. At the civil trial, Mr. Scheibe testified that he learned the value of the land from a county assessor and then supplied the figure to his partner, who then bid on the property. That was clearly improper. Such behavior would not be tolerated today.

Mr. Gary is standing by his appointees, saying mistakes made years ago should not prohibit them from public service today.

While none of the three appointees may have committed any offense that automatically disqualifies him from office, the actions of these appointees do indicate that they exercised extremely poor judgment. And a pattern of questionable appointees reflects badly on the judgment of Anne Arundel's new county executive.

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