Pr. George’s paid $600,000 to Metro board alternate over 8 years

Prince George’s County paid a Greenbelt-area lawyer appointed by former county executive Jack B. Johnson more than $600,000 over eight years for serving as its alternate representative on the Metro board of directors, according to information released Friday by the county.

Representatives of other jurisdictions are paid far less, or nothing, for serving on the Metro board. Marcell Solomon, Johnson’s appointee, is being replaced as an alternate director by Artis Hampshire-Cowan, a Howard University senior vice president who lives in Mitchellville. Solomon was paid most years only slightly more than is being proposed for Hampshire-Cowan, who was nominated this month by Johnson’s successor, County Executive Rushern L. Baker III, and approved by the County Council.

County officials have budgeted up to $75,000 a year to pay Hampshire-Cowan. Metro board representatives from Virginia are paid $50 per meeting; D.C. and federal representatives are not paid. Maryland’s two principal directors are paid $20,125 each; Montgomery’s alternate director is paid $20,000.

Hampshire-Cowan’s pay cannot exceed $75,000 and will be based on a “billable rate,” said Scott Peterson, Baker’s spokesman. The contract for Hampshire-Cowan has not been finalized, Peterson said.

According to the information released Friday by Baker’s office, Solomon was paid $604,910.80 from January 2003 through Jan. 21, 2011. His firm, Marcell Solomon & Associates, was paid $115 to $145 per hour during the years he served on the Metro board for the county.

Baker’s office released the information after officials realized they had previously provided incorrect amounts.

In fiscal 2004 through 2008, Solomon had a contract worth up to $100,000 each year with the county. During that time, he received at least $79,000 each of those years. In fiscal 2004, he received his largest paycheck from the county, $91,543.45. In fiscal 2011, Solomon was paid $5,540.45 under a contract that was worth up to $70,000.

Peterson said Solomon’s contract was “terminated by this administration because [his] services were no longer needed.” Solomon did not return a message left Friday at his office.

Baker’s office said last week that Solomon was paid $100,000 in fiscal 2009 and the same amount in 2010. Peterson attributed the error to an “administrative mistake” and said officials noticed it Thursday.

“Our sincerest apologies for the mistake,” Peterson wrote in an e-mail to The Washington Post.

The Metro board sets policy and oversees the regional transit authority. Its membership includes eight principal 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.

Two of Maryland’s principal directors on the Metro board — Alvin J. Nichols, who is from Prince George’s, and Michael Barnes, who is from Montgomery — joined the board this spring. Maryland pays them $20,125 each. The four Metro board members from Maryland also sit on the Washington Suburban Transit Commission, a bicounty agency whose primary purpose is to appoint members to the Metro board. Hampshire-Cowan also will work on the transit commission and be compensated for it as part of her proposed $75,000-a-year contract.

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

Dana Hedgpeth is the Washington Post’s lead reporter in covering the Metro rail and bus systems in the D.C. region and the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that runs them.
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