Howard Week

September 16, 2001

No candidates slated for C. Vernon Gray's County Council seat

Everyone interested in Howard County politics has known for three years that east Columbia Democrat C. Vernon Gray's County Council seat will be up for grabs next year.

The five-term veteran and the council's sole African-American member cannot run for re-election because of a three-term limit adopted in 1992, halfway through his 20-year tenure. But despite the advance notice, and with just a year until the 2002 primary election, no one has come forward to announce a run for Gray's council seat, although several are considering it. Neither African-American groups nor Democrats have endorsed anyone.

Uncertainty about redistricting and the smaller county's more relaxed approach to politics might be factors, some say, but many observers are surprised that no one has come forward. "We're still struggling for representation here. I think there needs to be a wake-up call," said the Rev. John Wright, an African-American activist and pastor of First Baptist Church of Guilford.

Apparently unarmed man fatally shot by police

A Howard County K-9 unit police officer fatally shot an apparently unarmed man in a wooded area of Columbia on Monday afternoon after the man refused to respond to repeated police commands to surrender.

The incident - the first fatal police shooting in the county in more than two years - followed what appears to have been a series of skirmishes between the man and his parents. The shooting is expected to be reviewed by police and the Howard County state's attorney's office.

Pfc. Timothy Wiley, a seven-year veteran of the force, fired one round from his .40-caliber Sig Sauer handgun into the upper torso of Harold Clifton Schwartz, 43, of North Laurel, police said.

Victims of terrorist attack include Columbia resident

For Marylanders struggling to cope after the terrorist attacks, the horror intensified Wednesday as the names of local residents - including a Walters Art Museum guide and a middle school teacher who lived in Columbia - emerged from the lengthy lists of the dead.

Sara Clark, 65, taught school for nearly half her life and was looking forward to retirement next year. She boarded American Airlines Flight 77 with several children from her sixth-grade class at Backus Middle School in Washington. They were on a class trip to Santa Cruz, Calif., said her close friend, John Milton Wesley, 52, a spokesman for the Housing Authority of Baltimore City.

"She was originally supposed to go to Florida, but two weeks ago they changed it and told her she was going to California," Mr. Wesley said from the Columbia home he and Clark shared. The couple recently returned from a long vacation and Clark wanted a break from traveling, he said.

State Senate minority leader to step down at end of year

State Senate Minority Leader Martin G. Madden, a moderate Howard County Republican who helped craft Maryland's welfare reform program, said Monday that he will end his 11-year career in elected office for personal and business reasons.

Madden, 52, who has led the Senate's Republicans for three years, said he plans to leave his General Assembly seat at the end of the year. His district covers most of eastern Howard County and the Laurel area of Prince George's County.

Madden is a self-employed insurance agent. He said his decision to leave the Senate was prompted in part by "an exciting and unique opportunity to substantially grow my business." That opportunity, he said, would take too much of his time for him to stay in his leadership role.

Elections official found in violation of ethics laws

Howard County Election Administrator Robert J. Antonetti Sr. was found in violation of Maryland's ethics laws while he held the same job in Prince George's County, according to a ruling Tuesday by the state's highest court.

The Court of Appeals, in a 7-2 decision, upheld a May 1997 ruling by the State Ethics Commission that Antonetti improperly hired his wife and children to elections board jobs in Prince George's County and failed to disclose their employment records.

The commission found that Antonetti paid family members a total of $14,000 from 1988 through 1994 for part-time work and signed the pay authorizations for them. The panel had recommended a two-week suspension and a $7,500 fine.

Chemist who took cyanide after guilty verdict dies

Frederick chemist Alan Bruce Chmurny died Thursday, less than 24 hours after he swallowed a cyanide pill in open court after hearing a jury convict him of trying to poison a former co-worker with mercury.

Chmurny, who had been in the intensive care unit at Howard County General Hospital, was pronounced dead at 1:55 p.m., said hospital spokeswoman Mary Patton. His decision to swallow the pill in front of about a dozen and a half court workers and spectators while court was in session Wednesday unnerved Howard Circuit Court officials and stunned his lawyer, Dino Flores.

Flores said he had no inkling that the 57-year-old scientist, a man he described as very intelligent, was contemplating suicide.

Chmurny was arrested on assault and related charges in June last year, after North Laurel resident Marta Bradley found mercury, a toxic metallic element, splashed on the seats and floor and in the vents of her station wagon.

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