Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel today reappointed State Racing Commission Chairman J. Newton Brewer, whose handling of controversial 1972 race track legislation became a focus of Mandel's political corruption trial.
Mandel also gave a state appointment to a witness in the trial, Hagerstown engineer Harold E. Wibberley Jr., who testified he allowed his name to be used to conceal ownership of Mariboro Race Track by friends of Mandel.
Wibberley and Brewer are considered potential witnesses in Mandel's retrial, scheduled April 13.
Wibberley was tapped for a three-year term on the State Department of Natural Resources Board of Review.
Another appointment to the racing commission today was that Frank Cuccia, a Baltimore businessman and friend of another trial figure, Mandel codefendant Irvin Kovena.
All the appointments, which must be approved by the state Senate, were part of the governor's annual "green bag" of patronage plums carried to the Senate today.
The Mandel trial was halted Dec. 7 when jurors heard news reports about alleged jury tampering. The allegations against Mandel and his codefendants in the first trial - W. Dale Hess, Harry W. Rodgers III, William A. Rodgers and Ernest N. Cory, Jr. - revolved around Mandel's knowledge of the secret purchase of Marlboro Race Track by Hess, and the Rodgers brothers and efforts made by the governor to aid the track in part through a 1972 race track consolidation bill.
Brewer was a strong advocate of the legislation in 1972 and repeatedly denied any knowledge of the involvement of Mandel's friends in the track which would have benefited from the bill.
Testimony at the trial, however, placed Brewer at a meeting to discuss the legislation along with Hess, who was one of the secret owners, and other racing figures. While Brewer never testified at the half-completed trial, he had confirmed his participation in that meeting in an interview with The Washington Post before the indictments.
Wibberley, president of Baker-Wibberley consulting engineers, testified that "as a favor" to his friend, Harry Rodgers, he allowed his name to be listed on public records as a stockholder even though he had no interest in the track and didn't even know where it was located.
Wibberley said he did this after being told by his lawyers and accountants there was "nothing wrong" with it.
Cuccia said he will resign from another appointment he got from Mandel last June, that of chairman of the state airports board of zoning appeals, to accept the racing job. Likewise, Cuccia was forced to resign from the Baltimore zoning board to accept that appointment. He served 17 years on the city board.
"I've always been interested in horses," said Cuccia, who raced horses from his Kay-Cee stables until about 10 years ago. He added that he has visited every major racetrack in America and many others throughout the world, where he was a frequent visitor at betting windows.