Panel hopefuls may face scrutiny

Woman's charges spur Balto. Co. Council to rethink nominations

March 06, 2007|By Josh Mitchell | Josh Mitchell,sun reporter

Council may give nominees more scrutiny Usually, an appointment to a volunteer panel like the Adult Public Guardianship Review Board would sail right through the Baltimore County Council.

Fledia Powell's nomination was on the agenda for last night's council meeting - until, that is, her pending criminal trial came to light.

Powell, who works in the county's Office of Workforce Development, is charged with first-degree assault, accused of aiming a shotgun out of a Towson-area home at a man standing on a corner. After a Sun reporter told county officials about the charge, they withdrew her nomination and said they would review how appointments are made.

"Obviously this raises an issue that hasn't been an issue before," said Donald I. Mohler, a spokesman for County Executive James T. Smith Jr. "It's something we clearly want to take a look at."

One county councilman said yesterday that the panel might have to take a closer look at future nominees.

The guardianship review board, consisting of 11 volunteers, meets monthly to review cases of disabled people who rely on the county government for basic needs. The board holds hearings and recommends whether a person's benefits should be modified or stopped. The board reviewed 185 cases in the 12-month period that ended June 30.

Harold Reid, a special assistant to the county executive who oversees nominations, said he notified colleagues last year about three vacancies on the board, including one that needed to be filled by someone with a physical disability. Powell was the only person to step forward who met that qualification.

She sent Reid a six-page resume that lists a master's degree in education and rehabilitation counseling from Coppin State University and 14 years of experience working in the field.

"The resume was extremely solid," Mohler said.

Reid said he interviewed Powell, 53, for the nomination in early January and that he could not recall her mentioning the criminal charges against her.

She is charged in a Sept. 20 incident at her son's girlfriend's apartment, court records show. A man told police he was standing at Eudowood and Hendrickson lanes in Towson talking to his brother and cousin about 3 p.m. that day when Powell pointed a gun at him through a window and then carried a shotgun from the home to the back of a truck, charging documents state.

The man said he asked Powell what she was doing, and she responded, "Headache."

Powell was released on $25,000 bond, and a trial is scheduled for April 11.

Powell said yesterday the incident stemmed from her belief that members of her church have been following her, angered by her knowledge of something.

"I end up trying to send a message to back off and leave me alone," Powell said.

She said that she had been trying to rest on a sofa when she felt a "burning sensation like [sun] rays," and believed the man outside, a neighbor, was using equipment to create the sensation.

She said she has had "visions" and that she believes someone was in her ceiling.

Powell's son told investigators that his mother spent three weeks at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital last year, according to charging documents. She said yesterday she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder last year and takes medication daily.

Powell said she feels she is qualified to serve on the board. "My judgment and my ability to understand is clear," she said.

Mohler said the administration will consider how people are nominated to boards and whether to require criminal background checks. He said that the county would review whether Powell should be nominated but that criminal charges do not necessarily disqualify her from serving on the panel.

County Council Chairman Stephen G. Samuel Moxley, a Catonsville Democrat, said he would ask the county executive to see why the research on Powell did not include the criminal charges.

Councilman Kevin Kamenetz said the council relies on the administration to look closely into the person's background.

"I can't remember any circumstance in 13 years where the council has questioned the wisdom of the appointment or the nomination from the executive for these types of appointments," said Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat. "If these are not being properly vetted by the executive branch, then the council will have to apply greater scrutiny."

josh.mitchell@baltsun.com

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