Baltimore County Digest

BALTIMORE COUNTY DIGEST

December 06, 2006

Peter O'Malley to be Smith's chief of staff

Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. said yesterday that his chief of staff is leaving and will be replaced by Peter O'Malley, Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley's brother.

Chief of Staff Ann K. Beegle unexpectedly submitted her resignation two weeks ago, saying she wanted to take time off, Smith said. Beegle, who will resign Jan. 2, has served as Smith's top aide since July 2003. She also managed his recent re-election campaign. Attempts to reach her yesterday were unsuccessful.

As chief of staff, O'Malley, 36, will manage Smith's schedule and oversee constituent services, among other duties.

"I love local government," said O'Malley, who lives in Mount Washington with his wife and two young daughters. "It's great when you can drive to work in the morning and start to fix ... problems."

O'Malley managed his brother's gubernatorial campaign and previous mayoral campaigns. In recent years, he has worked as a consultant to local governments on management and accountability, and worked for his brother in the Baltimore mayor's office, helping launch CitiStat, a program that uses statistics to improve government services.

O'Malley said he met Smith five years ago, worked on the executive's first campaign and served on his transition team after the election.

O'Malley, who holds a law degree from the University of Baltimore, will make $110,000 a year in his new job.

His hiring is the second recent change on Smith's senior staff.

Last month, county budget director Fred Homan succeeded the retiring Anthony G. Marchione as county administrative officer. Also, senior aide Damian O'Doherty is believed to be considering job opportunities outside of the county government.

Josh Mitchell

Federal court

Execution doctors sought

The federal judge considering a Maryland death row inmate's challenge to the state's lethal injection procedures would like prison officials to try to recruit the doctors and specially trained nurses to participate in executions before he decides whether to require the medical professionals' involvement.

U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg has indicated in a written order that he will reopen the record in the federal lawsuit filed by Vernon L. Evans Jr. so that the state can "explore the feasibility of recruiting" a general surgeon and either a certified registered nurse anesthetist or an anesthesiologist to join Maryland's execution team.

Lawyers for Evans, 57, who was convicted in the 1983 contract killings of two motel employees, have argued that the nursing assistant and prison employees on the execution team are unqualified and insufficiently trained for the tasks they carry out in the state's death chamber. The legal team has asked the judge to require the participation of doctors and other medical professionals in state executions to eliminate the risk that Evans will experience "excruciating pain" as he is put to death.

Attorneys for the state have countered that an execution is not a medical procedure and should not be held to the same standards as the practice of medicine.

In deciding whether to grant Evans' request, the judge wrote, he must weigh the potential harm to Evans of not requiring doctors' involvement in executions against the burden to the state of doing so.

"It would be preferable for the court to have the benefit of additional evidence when applying the balancing test," Legg wrote in an order filed Friday. "The best evidence of burden would consist of the state's actual attempt to recruit specialists."

Laura Mullally, an assistant attorney general representing the state in the federal case, said yesterday that she's not quite sure how the state will respond.

The judge wrote that he will schedule a hearing -- either to be held in court or by teleconference -- to discuss "the parameters" of the state's search for qualified medical professionals wiling to participate in state executions.

Sentenced to death in 1992 in the fatal shootings of David Scott Piechowicz and his sister-in-law, Susan Kennedy, Evans' second scheduled execution was postponed in February when the Maryland Court of Appeals agreed to hear four legal challenges. A decision on those appeals is pending.

Jennifer McMenamin

Education

Fires at 2 schools ruled arson

Fires that damaged two Baltimore County high schools this week were intentionally set, authorities said yesterday.

About 5 a.m. yesterday, a fire was reported at Patapsco High School and Center for the Arts in the 8100 block of Wise Ave. in Dundalk. Firefighters found an air conditioning unit connected to the main building and a wooden walkway that led to a portable classroom on fire, officials said.

Someone had used gasoline to start the fire, officials said.

Authorities deemed an English office and a classroom in the main school building unusable, officials said. The portable classroom was also deemed unfit for students, said Elise Armacost, a county Fire Department spokeswoman. Damage was estimated at $25,000, she said.

Another fire had been set Sunday evening at the school. Someone stuffed hay under a portable classroom door before setting it ablaze, Armacost said. That fire caused an estimated $600 in damage, Armacost said.

Monday night, firefighters found a fire in a room above the auditorium at Chesapeake High School in the 1800 block of Turkey Point Road in Essex, Armacost said, adding that cardboard boxes were used to set the fire.

That fire caused about $15,000 in damage.

The fires are under investigation, Armacost said.

Nick Shields

Fullerton

Raccoon found to have rabies

A raccoon found in the basement of a Fullerton home last week has tested positive for rabies, county officials said.

The homeowner put the sick raccoon in a cooler on the side of the road in the 7600 block of Belair Road. Two children later noticed the cooler and took the animal to a local veterinarian, officials said.

Officials do not believe that the children or the homeowner were exposed to the disease.

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