Prince George's County school board attorney Paul M. Nussbaum denied yesterday that he had deceived county NAACP president William R. Martin into negotiating an agreement to curtail the busing of schoolchildren who live in integrated county neighborhoods.
The agreement, announced Tuesday by Martin and school board chairman Norman H. Saunders, has led to an effort within the county NAACP to oust Martin from office, and to Martin's charge Friday that he was "duped" into negotiating the agreement.
Martin said yesterday that he felt he had been "deceived" when he went to a meeting at Nussbaum's office Feb. 23 to resolve what he thought was a busing complaint of a black county resident and instead was handed a draft of the proposed busing agreement. Martin's use Friday of the word "duped," he said, was an "unfortunate choice of words."
Nussbaum said yesterday that "it was not an intentional or overt act on my part if Mr. Martin was duped or feels he was duped. I have only extreme sympathy and understanding for Mr. Martin."
Nussbaum said he didn't know if Martin had been told specifically to expect to negotiate a draft agreement when he was invited to the meeting.
Nussbaum said he became involved in discussions tht led to the agreement Feb. 8, when Saunders told him that "he had been meeting quietly with some of the black leaders in Prince George's County to see if something could be worked out to give relief" to the Riverbend Estates community in Southern Prince George's, where children were being bused away from their integrated neighborhood schools.
Nussbaum declined to name the "black leaders" with whom Saunders had been talking. He said he had promised them that he would not reveal their names.
Nussbaum said a meeting between him Saunders and the black leaders was arranged for Feb. 12 to discuss the issue, but that a snow-storm prevented some persons from attending. In a conference phone call, in which Martin did not participate, Nussbaum said, a second meeting was set up for Feb. 23. He said he volunteered to prepare for that meeting a draft proposal to deal with busing in all integrated county neighborhoods.
Then persons, including Martin and four other county black leaders, gathered in Nussbaum's office on Feb. 23, he said, and "in response to a specific question from one of the black leaders as to whether I had a working draft ready, I passed it out."
Two changes were made, he said. One guaranteed that the county would "maintain and continue at all times equal educational opportunities" to all schools. The other guaranteed that a school that might become predoninately black under the agreement because of the removal of children who had been bused there from integrated communities would not be closed for at least three years.
"When both sides left," Nussbaum said, "they all agreed that they have to do a major selling job" to get the agreements approved by both the white and black communities in the country.
Martin said Friday night following the taping of a television program that he had expected to "just talk" at the Feb. 23 meeting. According to Martin, Nussbaum said "forgive me for not telling you I had this document. I want you to agree to discuss it in secrecy with us."
Martin said Nussbaum "duped me into negotiations in that he did not say we were negotiating anything."
Rather than leaving the meeting, Martin said he real "a game was being played," and stayed for six hours "editing" the document because he said he felt something constructive could come of it.