The Prince George's County Council and County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan once more are at a loggerheads over appointments to a county body. as usual, the issue is philosophical, the stakes political and the holds unbarred.
The body in question is the human Relations Commission. The council rejected six Hogan appointments to the commission this week, after two previous warnings that it might do so. The council feels that appointment of the six persons Hogan nominated in late October -- five men and one woman -- would leave women under represented on the commission.
Larry Hogan Jr., the executive's son and chief aide, said there were no qualified women applicants, but women's groups say he has not looked for any.
"If we allow this kind of imbalance on the Human Relations Commission, then we destroy the Human Relations Commission," said council member Deborah Marshall before casting her vote with the seven-to-three majority.
"I really don't know what happens now. Mechanically the ball is in our court," said Hogan, who will try to compile a new list of appointees. "There is a real possibility that because of the council action we may not have a Human Relations Commission. It may, be nearly impossible to get people who are willing to serve on this board," he added, calling the treatment his appointees have received from the council "insulting and degrading."
The commission is charged with reducing discriminatory behavior in many aspects of county life, including employment, housing, finance, public accomodations and law enforcement. it has the power to subpoena documents and people to come before it to answer charges of discrimination, and seeks to reach written agreement between the parties in a dispute.
If no agreement is reached, cases can be brought before the commission as a whole for a ruling on whether there is discrimination and, if so, for a decision on how to remedy it. negotiated agreements and commission rulings are enforced by the Prince George's County Circuit Court.
The present commission is made up of three white men, four black men, two white women and Filipino woman. There are three vacancies, according to Executive Director William Welch.
Hogan's list of nominees would have filled the three vacancies with men, replaced one of the women with a man and reappointed the Filipino, Hilaria T. Piniera, leaving only two women on the 13-member commission.
"My point was that there ought to be more than two females on the commission," said council member Floyd Wilson, who joined member Anne Landry Lombardi in leading a vote to delay a ruling on the nominees at an early November meeting. "I've had a lot of mail from women's groups complaining about this."
"It would be preferable to have more (women on the commission) and we will do our best to get more on there. But we are not going to reject any of these nominees just to get a woman on there," said the younger Hogan.
He insisted that he had no resumes from qualified women when the list of nominees was made, although some have come in since the first public hearing.He said neither the County Council nor any of several women's organizations who have approached the Council on this issue had sent him any names. He said these include the Women's Action Coalition, the Women's Political Caucus and the county chapter of the National Organization for Women (NOW).
Patricia Finn, who has served on the commission since 1976, applied for reappointment but was passed over because Hogan felt new blood was needed. She said she does not feel that Hogan tried very hard to replace her with a woman.
"It's an unacceptable answer to say that no women have applied," said Finn, who is a member of NOW. "While the phrase 'best-qualified candidate' is frequently touted in other areas, it hardly applies to Hogan's recruiting record with respect to a balance of women."
Council member Lombardi said a nearly all-male Human Relations Commission would be likely to prohibit sensitive handling of women's issues in the county.
In the past year the County Council has rejected two Hogan appointments to the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission and two appointments to the park and planning commission.