Flawed process, good result

Anne Arundel: Council misstepped its way to best choice for Roop's successor in 5th District.

February 09, 2000

SOMETIMES you just get lucky, and something done wrong comes out right. Like when you're assembling a bicycle and you leap from Step A to Step C. Yet, after an adjustment here, a little fiddling there, the bike rides perfectly.

Anne Arundel County Council members should be able to relate, but shouldn't pat themselves too firmly on the back. They chose the right person to succeed Cliff Roop, who died Jan. 3, but they wrongly trampled the spirit of open government in the process.

The public got only a glimpse of how this decision was made. Council members gathered in pairs to interview many of the 12 candidates. They circumvented open meetings laws and closed the curtains on Anne Arundel County residents in general and Fifth District residents in particular.

They made their selection after a two-hour public hearing, but secrecy should never shroud the public's business.

Remarkably, however, the council's flawed process resulted in an excellent choice.

They picked the best candidate: attorney Cathleen M. Vitale of Severna Park, who chairs the county's Republican Central Committee.

Ms. Vitale was impressive in her brief public appearance. She spoke eloquently about growing up in District 5, observing good and bad growth patterns and possessing a "fire in the belly" for local pubic service. Ms. Vitale clearly knows her new district. She campaigned there in 1998, when she narrowly lost to Mr. Roop in the Republican primary election. Although a Republican Party leader, she surely knows that many local issues have no partisan boundaries.

Council could have conducted a better process, but it might have been hard-pressed to come up with a better selection.

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