Gary threatens court case on selecting school board County executive testifies on bills to change way members are ** appointed

March 03, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary is threatening a court challenge of any measure that would limit him or the governor to appointing school board members from a list recommended by the School Board Nominating Convention.

Such a provision would make the convention more powerful than a judicial nominating commission, whose recommendations are not binding on the governor, Mr. Gary told the county's General Assembly delegation Friday. He said such a measure also could be unconstitutional, violating the one-person, one-vote rule, because convention delegates are self-appointed.

Mr. Gary was among several people testifying about bills to change the school board selection process. The delegation is not expected to vote on the measures for at least two weeks.

"I have to have -- any appointing authority would have to have -- the ability to reject the three names and request the convention to submit another three names to him," Mr. Gary said.

On the table this year, in what has become nearly a perennial issue, are three bills, two in the House and one in the Senate.

One House bill would keep the appointment power with the governor, but restrict him to a list of three names submitted by the convention. The other House bill would give the appointment power to the county executive, who also would be restricted to the convention's three recommendations. The choice would have to be ratified by the County Council.

The Senate bill gives the executive appointment power, but omits the council confirmation.

Not surprisingly, Mr. Gary said he favors the Senate bill, which was introduced by Sen. John A. Cade, a Severna Park Republican.

Under the existing system, the convention sends two names to the governor, who makes the appointment, often after consulting with the county executive.

The governor is not restricted to the convention's choices, however. Seven times over 12 years, governors have ignored the convention's recommendations, angering county residents and prompting attempts to change the selection process.

Advocates of giving the appointment to the county executive say that it would make the school board more accountable for its policies and that the public would hold executives responsible for their appointees' actions. Opponents say it would give the executive too much power.

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