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Council to Take a Closer Look at Nominees

By Ovetta Wiggins
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 14, 2004; Page PG02

Ordinarily, when County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) nominates someone for a post, the nominee might meet with council members, and then a bunch of nice words are thrown around about what a good job the appointee will do. Then comes a unanimous vote to confirm the appointment.

It happened with Joyce A. Starks, the chairman of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission, whom Johnson nominated in February. It also happened with Prem Agarwal, another Johnson appointee who was put on the WSSC last year.

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After the turmoil at the WSSC in recent months, council members have decided to take a different approach.

Bottom line: It's not going to be so easy anymore.

Charles E. Samuel learned that this week.

Samuel, who spent 27 years in the Internal Revenue Service's Office of Chief Counsel working on criminal tax prosecutions, was nominated by Johnson to become chairman of the Redevelopment Authority, replacing Shirley S. Hagans, who resigned. The council was scheduled to confirm his appointment Tuesday.

When the item came up during the council session, Chairman Tony Knotts (D-Temple Hills) said the vote was being deferred until next week.

Asked after the session why the vote was postponed, Knotts said: "Since the matter at WSSC, we're taking a closer look."

Johnson's appointees to the WSSC have come under criticism in recent months, as political infighting and allegations of conflicts of interest and mismanagement swirl around the utility.

Many have questioned Stark's ability to serve on the board of a utility that provides water and sewer services to 1.6 million residents in Prince George's and Montgomery counties.

In the past few weeks, all three appointees from Montgomery County have resigned. One board member said she decided to step down because of the "dysfunction" on the board and suggested in her resignation letter that all of the board resign.

Knotts called the normal appointment process "haphazard" and said council members want more scrutiny of nominees.

He said council members generally will get a phone call on a Friday that someone is being appointed the following week, and "often we don't have the luxury of meeting with them."

The chairman said he would like to see nominees go before a committee, rather than just in front of the council.

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