O'Malley taps 7 for Board of Regents

Nominees for state university system include a major contributor to Ehrlich campaigns

February 17, 2007|By Gadi Dechter | Gadi Dechter,Sun reporter

Gov. Martin O'Malley nominated seven people yesterday -- some new faces, some holdovers from previous Democratic administrations -- to the 17-member board that sets tuition, approves policy and hires presidents at 11 Maryland public university campuses.

The governor's choices to serve on the state university system's Board of Regents include a former University of Maryland basketball star, the head of one of Baltimore's oldest law firms and a major donor to former Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

O'Malley selected C. Thomas McMillen, a former congressman, Rhodes scholar and University of Maryland basketball star, to take the seat vacated by Ehrlich fundraiser Richard E. Hug. McMillen has served on the independent Knight Commission, which promotes reform in collegiate athletics.

The governor tapped Venable law firm chairman James L. Shea and businessman Barry P. Gossett to replace two recent Ehrlich appointees, James T. Brady and Cheryl G. Krongard.

Gossett, CEO of Baltimore-based Acton Mobile Industries, has been a major contributor to Ehrlich's political campaigns, giving the maximum $4,000 in the last campaign cycle. He has not donated to O'Malley's campaigns, according to campaign finance documents.

O'Malley submitted for reappointment three sitting regents, Patricia S. Florestano, Orlan M. Johnson and regent Chairman Clifford M. Kendall.

With more than a third of the board's seats up for grabs, the appointments represent O'Malley's first opportunity to make a lasting mark on the state's system of higher education. In his campaign for governor, he promised more affordable tuition.

Yesterday, he picked "the best people to create a university system that is affordable for families, that continues to play a role in driving Maryland's economy, and that reaches the top ranks of universities nationally," said O'Malley spokesman Steve Kearney.

The regent nominations were among 145 names submitted by the governor yesterday in the annual "green bag" appointments to state boards and commissions, and must be confirmed by the Senate.

Perhaps the most prestigious of the state's unpaid governing boards, the regents came under fire early in Ehrlich's term for approving tuition increases of more than 30 percent at every campus except Coppin State, with increases at some schools topping 40 percent.

The increases took place at a time of drastic cuts in state aid to higher education. In his proposed budget for next year, O'Malley has pledged to continue a more recent trend of increasing higher education spending.

Typically, regents may serve no more than two five-year terms. The lone student regent serves a one-year term. For student regent, O'Malley selected Richard E. Scott Jr., of Frostburg State. He will be the only representative of Western Maryland on the board, after Thomas B. Finan Jr. steps down in June after finishing his second term.

O'Malley has not yet chosen a replacement for Finan, but Chancellor William E. Kirwan said many system officials believe the choice will come from the western part of the state.

In other appointments, O'Malley tapped U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Baltimore Democrat, to join the Morgan State University regents. Like St. Mary's College, Morgan is not part of the University System of Maryland.

O'Malley also nominated for reappointment former congressman Kweisi Mfume to the Morgan board.

Fred Puddester, budget secretary under former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, is O'Malley's choice to join the Maryland Stadium Authority.

The governor also chose for reappointment to Baltimore's board of elections Armstead B.C. Jones Sr., who clashed with state elections administrator Linda H. Lamone over voting problems during the last election.

gadi.dechter@baltsun.com

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