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Pr. George’s County to pay Metro board member up to $75,000

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The Prince George’s County Council has approved the nomination of a Howard University senior vice president to serve as its alternate member on Metro’s board of directors, and officials have budgeted up to $75,000 for pay — considerably more than other jurisdictions.

Artis Hampshire-Cowan, a Mitchellville resident who manages the affairs of Howard’s board of trustees, was appointed by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III. But the final contract for Hampshire-Cowan has not been finalized, according to spokesman Scott Peterson. Hampshire-Cowan’s pay will be based on a “billable rate,” he said.

“She will be paid at a rate that has not been finalized, but it will be based on the hours she works on the [Metro] board and for the board,” Peterson said, noting that the total can’t exceed $75,000.

A former Prince George’s County representative on the Metro board — Marcell Solomon, a Greenbelt lawyer — was paid about $70,000 in fiscal 2009 and the same amount in 2010. County officials said Wednesday that Solomon was paid $5,500 as of this month under a contract worth up to $70,000 a year.

“Unlike the other jurisdictions, Prince George’s County has the highest number of undeveloped Metro stations in the region,” Peterson said in an e-mail. “The member serves as a critical point-person in assisting in the development of strategies to implement the county executive’s economic development efforts at transit-oriented development locations.”

Prince George’s has attempted to attract development around its 15 Metro stations for years, but the sites remain largely undeveloped compared to those in other areas.

Hampshire-Cowan, who received $257,365 in salary and benefits from Howard from July 2009 to June, according to a university tax filing, was unavailable to discuss her new appointment. In an e-mail from a Howard spokeswoman, Hampshire-Cowan said: “Transportation is paramount to the quality of life in the region and is key to regional prosperity and the achievement of our economic development goals especially in Prince George’s County.”

Metro’s board of directors sets policy and oversees the regional transit authority. The membership includes eight voting and eight alternate directors, with each jurisdiction — the District, Maryland, Virginia and the federal government — appointing two of each. Each jurisdiction decides how much its Metro representatives are paid, and the amounts vary widely.

Outside groups have recommended standardizing the selection process and compensation. The range was called “illogical” in a November report from a task force organized by the Greater Washington Board of Trade and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.

Maryland’s Department of Transportation, for example, pays each of the state’s principal directors on the Metro board $20,125 a year. The pay for Maryland’s alternate board members are decided by Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Montgomery pays its alternate member, Kathryn Porter, $20,000 annually.

Alvin J. Nichols, the principal director from Prince George’s, joined the Metro board in March and is paid $20,125 by the state. Nichols — as will Hampshire-Cowan — also sits on the Washington Suburban Transit Commission, a bi-county agency whose primary purpose is to appoint members to the Metro board. Hampshire-Cowan’s pay includes her work on the transit commission.

Virginia pays its members $50 per Metro board meeting, and the District pays nothing, according to board members and the agencies that fund their positions. The federal representatives to the Metro board are appointed by the General Services Administration and are not paid.

Some Metro board members said they are concerned about the inconsistencies in pay.

Jeff C. McKay, an alternate director from Virginia, said the amount “sounds high, but then again it depends on what you’re getting for $75,000.”

“If it is a member who shows up for meetings, goes to public events and responds to customer inquiries and complaints, then maybe that is a fair number,” said McKay, who also serves as a supervisor for Fairfax County.

But McKay said he would favor having uniform compensation for Metro board members and a system for evaluating how members are performing.

“When you don’t have uniform compensation, you have inherent unfairness and you have a board that, by design, is not as collaborative as it ought to be,” he said.

Catherine M. Hudgins, chairman of Metro’s board, said that she welcomed Hampshire-Cowan to the board and that she didn’t “have an opinion about her pay.”

“Surely,” she said, serving on the Metro board is “not about the pay.” Hudgins is also a Fairfax County supervisor.

Mort Downey, second vice chairman of Metro’s board and a federal government member who is not paid, said the states and local jurisdictions would “have to pass new laws or make some agreement of conformity to come up with a consistent approach.”

Hampshire-Cowan previously served as assistant district attorney in Philadelphia and as a congressional lobbyist in the D.C. area.

She also worked as special counsel to then-Prince George’s County Executive Wayne K. Curry during the relocation of the Washington Redskins to Landover, and she has been a commissioner on the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.

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