ANNAPOLIS, JAN. 12 -- A veteran black delegate from Baltimore today denounced what he characterized as an "old boy network" in the General Assembly that discriminates against black politicians while rewarding "its own kind" with judgeships and cushy state jobs.
Del. John Douglass (D-Baltimore), alleging that legislative leaders reneged on a promise to get him the job of deputy state treasurer, said that research going back to the mid-1970s shows that the old boy network had not helped any black legislators get state jobs. In contrast, he said, 49 white legislators either held state posts or were named to them during that period.
Douglass said he was not criticizing the existence of a patronage system, only the exclusion of blacks from its spoils.
"The old boy network has worked well. Highly qualified people have been appointed to demanding jobs," Douglass said during a news conference. "What I object to is the systematic exclusion of black legislators by this network and its refusal to help blacks find comparable jobs."
Douglass, now in his 18th year in the legislature, was a candidate for state treasurer this time last year. The legislature, which selects the treasurer, chose former Montgomery County delegate Lucille Maurer for the job. Douglass contends that House leaders, including Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell (D-Kent), made him a firm commitment that he would be Maurer's second in command.
Douglass said he knows of at least a half-dozen blacks who unsuccessfully sought state jobs when they were defeated for reelection or decided to leave the legislature. The old boy network, he said, did not help any of them.
Mitchell did not comment directly on the question of judgeships or patronage jobs, but defended his record by saying, "Blacks have more leadership posts than they've held in any other speaker's time." There are six blacks among the approximately 30 legislators in leadership positions in the House.
Maurer has said that she was never a part of any deal to make Douglass deputy treasurer. She hired as deputy H. Louis Stettler III, the state's highly regarded budget chief under Gov. Harry Hughes.
Sen. Decatur Trotter (D-Prince George's), chairman of the legislative Black Caucus, said he believes Douglass is right about the difficulty that black legislators have had getting state jobs. "We're not saying there shouldn't be a system. We're just not part of it."
But Trotter said he and other Black Caucus members have no criticisms of Mitchell. "Basically, we think he has delivered on all the issues we asked him to deliver on."
House Majority Leader John Arnick (D-Baltimore County), said Douglass was promised help in trying to get the deputy treasuer's job, but not explictly promised the job itself. He said he does not think blacks have been discriminated against in the patronage system.
Over the years, he said, "There were probably half a dozen good old boys who couldn't get jobs either."