Prince George's County Council member Sue V. Mills last week called his behavior "inhumane." To council member James Herl, he had committed a "total screw up." Slightly kinder words came from member Richard Castaldi, who labeled him merely "less than smooth."
The object of this ire was Prince George's County Executive Parris Glendening, who told reporters last fall, only half-jokingly, that he had been elected to bring "peace and harmony to the land" after an era of partisan conflict. The strong words emanating from the council were a sign that the promised era of Democratic harmony between the county's top politicians still is not at hand.
The current discord is over a list of names sent down by Glendening in recent weeks to fill dozens of vacancies on various citizen boards that oversee such concerns as human relations, consumer protection and cable television.
Glendening's troubles with the council underscore his already strained relations with the county's Democratic state legislators.
Members of the all-Democratic council initially complained Glendening, also a Democrat, failed to consult them before submitting the names of nominees to these largely unsalaried jobs, which serve as a diluted form of patronage, used to recognize party activists for their work or to encourage talented people to take part in county affairs.
According to the council members, who must confirm the appointments, the list contained too many people they didn't know, not enough of their choices and, even more objectionable, people who had supported their opponents in last fall's elections.
"He sent down this whole list and people said, 'Wait a minute,' " said William Amonett, a third-term council member from Brandywine. "It became necessary for me to become more firm."
Privately, a few members even threatened to veto the whole list, an action that would have been embarrassingly reminiscent of the hostile relations over the previous four years between the Democratic council and former executive Lawrence J. Hogan, Glendening's Republican predecessor.
But despite these background protestations, all but one of the appointments sailed through the council unanimously earlier this month after Glendening apologized and promised the members more participation in the future.
Last week, however, council tempers rose anew when Glendening decided to submit four new names to the powerful boards that oversee water and sewer service and land use and recreation. Two of the nominees were former members of the council, both highly regarded, who were strong allies of Glendening during his term on the council.
More importantly to some council members, however, was that one sewer board appointee would replace Andrew Vislosky, a longtime Democratic favorite who has the backing of many council members and state legislators who want to see his reappointment to the $10,000-a-year job.
So popular is Vislosky that the previous council, led by Glendening, rebuffed at least three attempts by former executive Hogan to replace him.
"Andy Vislosky makes the elected official look good," commented State Sen. Thomas V. (Mike) Miller, a longtime friend of Vislosky's, "If it's a stopped up toilet, Andy goes to their house. If it's a WSSC problem, there's a truck right away and the district's politician gets the credit."
Glendening said his appointees represent "a quality package--professional, knowledgeable and balanced"--reflective of a campaign promise to appoint more blacks, women, Hispanics and representatives of different geographical areas.
Although Glendening said he liked Vislosky, he said he is determined to appoint people outside the county's traditional Democratic inner circle to prominent positions.
Yet equally important, Glendening readily acknowledged, the appointees would be "his" people, committed to his policies and unencumbered by loyalties to other officials. A political science professor, Glendening knows that successfully navigating the appointments process is key to defining the balance of power between the executive and other county leaders.
It is this fact that has angered the state legislators even more than the council.
Council members can agree among themselves to oppose unpalatable appointments with their votes. But legislators can only ask to be consulted, and this, citing his "responsibilities" as executive, Glendening has refused to do. Glendening has said he would touch base with the legislators as a courtesy but will not "ask for consensus."
"He committed himself, when the senators agreed to run with him, that he would meet with them on appointments. He has not kept that commitment," complained State Sen. Arthur Dorman, angered that Glendening nominated his opponent in the Democratic primary to a transportation board.
Dorman was reportedly so annoyed about the appointment that, in a meeting last week, he angrily told Glendening, "If you want to be embarrassed, that's fine with me."
Council members, however, say the honeymoon is strained but not yet over. Despite their pique over procedure, chairman Frank Casula said the council has been pleased overall with the appointments and many council members have sympathy with the delicacy of the appointments process.
"I can sympathize with how hard it is to satisfy all the special interests," said Wilson, the council's senior black representative. "I think we're making progress on the minorities, including women. The way it's going so far, I think we'll exceed whatever we've had in the past."
Despite their private wrangling, Miller said the state legislators have moved from outrage toward Glendening to a recognition that a mutual accommodation has to take place.
"I'm just going to hold my peace and not say anything," Miller said. "I'm just going to let him make his own bed and lie in it."