During the past four years, Prince George's County Executive Winifield M Kelly Jr. has managed to stock at least half of the more than 60 county boards, commissions and agencies with friends and workers of and contributors to the Democratic Party.
Continuing the tradition of "patronage is alive and well" that he established when he took office, Kelly said recently that he relies on the advice of elected officials and Democratic leaders to select county residents for the more than 800 posts.
Kelly's use of patronage follows the example set by his Republican predecessor, William W. Gullett, who also used boards and commission positions as political rewards.
From Kelly's earliest appointment of his 1974 campaign treasurer, Thomas Wessel, to the personnel board in 1975, to his recent decision to appoint campaign worker Ronald Sachs as a tenant member of the Landlord-Tenant Commission, Kelly has intermingled civic activists with party affiliates. Political appointees, according to one observer, usually receive the paid commission appointments.
"This is their reward," said Parris N. Glendening, who as a council member suggests appointments and confirms Kelly's choices.
"Their entree to the appointment route is through political involvement," said Glendening. "That is how they became known to us. I'm sure there are other people out there who are as well qualified, or who are perhaps better qualified than our candidates. We just don't know them.
"Others get appointments based on reputations they have developed elsewhere. Larry Albert was long active in tenant affairs and used to call us about tenant problems. When his name was suggested as a tenant member of the Landlord-Tenant Commission, the organization's first response to him was that 'he's hostile to us.'
"But because he was so active for tenants," Glendening said, "he got the not (for the seat). Now, in his enthusiasm on the board, he has become more extreme in his views."
Last month Albert asked the County Council to conduct an audit on the Landlord-Tenant Commission, an act that proved to be his swan song. Albert, whose term ended last month, will not reappointed, according to Kelly. Instead, Ronald Sachs will be appointed in his stead. Sachs will join his father, Arnold Sachs as a commission board member. The senior Sachs is currently a member of the Air Conditioning, Hearing and Refrigeration Licensing Board. They are both paid commissions.
Kelly said he announces pending vacanies "to members of both parties and request that they have people send in resumes.We make a selection and run them by the Breakfast Club (the Democratic Advisory Committee). The appointments go to people who are politically active, the same ones who are the movers in the community."
While the paying boards and commissions usually go to political figures, the non-paying advisory commissions are usually filled with civic activists from the community, often with the same people who lobby Kelly on those issues.
"I don't go out of my way to do that, and it is the exception rather than the rule," said Kelly. "But if they are active in the community on an issue, they are included."
The non-paying boards are usually only advisory in nature and, as attendance elicits no compensation, enthusiasm for the subject is often the only attraction.
In 1976, an executive order created the Criminal Justice Advisory Board, the 13-member board which was supposed to "meet from time to time as necessary to provide liaison and more effective communication between county government and various components of criminal justice system."
As of this week, none of the proposed members of the advisory board had met. Circuit Court Judge Ernest A. Loveless, who as administrator of the Circuit Court is listed as a member, first learned of the board from a reporter. Loveless said, "maybe I was appointed, but I don't recall seeing any communication about it."
The somewhat haphazard method of obtaining names for appointments has occasionally created some embarrassment for the Kelly administration. Recently, one person appointed a commission did not attend the public hearing for his prospective post and did not show up for the swearing-in ceremony.
The appointee, Henry A. Davis, owner of the Davis Liquor Store and former City Council member in Glenarden, was named to the Cable Television Commission by Sen. Thommie Broadwater Jr., with whom Kelly discusses every black appointment. Davis' resume also included as references the names of Del. Decatur Trotter and council member Floyd Wilson. All four men are co-founders of the Prince George's State Bank.
When Davis, who could not be reached for comment, did not appear for subsequent commission meetings and could not be reached by Kelly's staff, Kelly sought another candidate to replace him. In accordance with Kelly's stated policy of 20 percent representation of minorities and women on most boards, Kelly staffers looked for another black appointee.
This time another board member suggested a name to Kelly. As the appointment did not come from Broadwater, however, Lally placed the traditional call to Broadwater.
In the phone call, Lally referred to the possible appointee as "a real nice guy," said he has "probably got some bucks" and told Broadwater he would send him a copy of the man's resume.
When Broadwater asked Lally what the prospective appointee did, Lally replied, "Gee, I don't know. He's a Tantallon rich guy."
Another example of "the process" involved H. Manning Clagett who was appointed last October as a public member of the Landlord-Tenant Commission. Clagett said recently he "didn't know why" he was asked to be a member. "I guess it's because I'm active in Democratic politics," he said.
Clagett, who owns Clagett Realty and rents "a couple of houses" of his own, said he "didn't realize (when appointed) it would be as much work as it is. I thouht it would be an easy, smooth-running thing, but it's not."
Clagett is a member of one of 12 paid commissions doling out $124,000 in payments to commission members each year. Prince George's has three levels of commissions, two of them paying per diem sums for each meeting attended, and one uncompensated category for purely "interested party" involvement.
The bill requiring the structuring of fees came after council members had introduced legislation that would delete all paid positions. Reponse from politicians and elected officials complaining that this would dry up an important source of patronage forced amendments to the bill that produced the three separate categories.
Category One pays $300 a month or $3,600 a year to each commissioner and includes the Personnel Board and Cable Television Commission. Category Two pays $50 per meeting, not to exceed two meetings a month, or $1,200 a year. It includes the Board of Ethics, Human Relations Commission, Landlord-Tenant Commission and Animal Control Commission, among others. According to one council member, the council is currently studying legislation that would increase some of the per diem rates once again.
The pattern of Kelly appointments can be seen in the makeup of the membership of the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration Licensing Board. Arnold Sachs, mentioned previously, is an Oxon Hill photojournalist extremely active in local politics. Salvador Valdes along with his company Movalco Inc. contributed heavily to Kelly's 1974 campaign. Ronald Wilson, a contractor, was referred to the commission by State Sen. Miller and by Andrew Vislosky, a member of the Washington Sururban Sanitary Commission. Richard Rappa, is owner and mechanic of Dick's Co. and was referred to Kelly by Delegates Frank Komenda and John Garrity. Natalie Blackistone Barry, a Bowie housewife, got the nod from State Sen. Edward Conroy and Del. Gerard Devlin.
Kelly said the selection process, while not "a sophisticated one," has produced "the best of people, the highly motivated people."
Kelly even "appoints some Republicans sometimes," according to Lally. The Republicans include Ilona Hogan on the Board of Library Trustees, Raymond LaPlaca as commissioner on the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission, and Charles Dukes on the Personnel Board.
Hogan is the wife of Lawrence Hogan, currently Kelly's opponent in the county executive race; LaPlaca headed the Republicans for Kelly group in 1974 and contributed to his campaign; and Dukes, an attorney and Kelly supporter against Gullet, who, as a trustee on a Deed of Trust, orchestrated the foreclosure sale of property owned by council member Floyd Wilson.
"You have to be fair," Lally said.