Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry is replacing the leaders of a citizens police oversight panel, which had been criticized for working in secret and failing to produce annual reports as required by law.
Chairman Valerie J. Kaplan and Vice Chairman Alfred L. Barrett are both leaving the county's Citizen Complaint Oversight Panel, an independent group that is charged with monitoring allegations of police misconduct and brutality.
Curry (D) said through a spokesman that he "wasn't cleaning house." But County Council Chairman M.H. Jim Estepp (D-Upper Marlboro) said there was a consensus among county leaders that the police oversight panel needed new leadership.
The committee of seven was paid $160,000 during a three-year period in which it failed to issue annual reports describing its work and findings. The panel is required by county law to detail the number of cases it has reviewed, as well as its general findings and recommendations for changes in the police department. The panel eventually produced a report in September after public criticism that it wasn't doing its job.
"They were certainly good people, well-meaning people, but clearly the thought was that we needed fresh blood," Estepp said.
Kaplan and Barrett, who were paid $50 an hour to review complaints of police harassment, have been serving on the panel for almost a year after their four-year terms had expired. Neither was eligible for reappointment because county law limits members to two consecutive terms.
Curry has allowed hundreds of appointments on other citizen committees to expire without replacing those members. Glenda Wilson, Curry's chief of staff, has said that the county executive is not required by law to replace or reappoint members whose terms have expired.
"People [argue] whether those [terms] have to be current, but the law says it's fine," Wilson said.
The council is holding a confirmation hearing today to consider Curry's appointments to replace Kaplan and Barrett and a third member, the Rev. Perry Smith, who resigned. The three nominated replacements are Calvin Brown, Melvin C. Eley Jr. and Stephen J. Del Giudice, a former council member from Hyattsville.
Curry spokesman Reginald A. Parks said he did not know Brown or Eley and could not provide information about their qualifications.
Reached yesterday by telephone, Barrett said he was unaware that he was being replaced.
"Well, bless their hearts, but it would so nice if they let us know," said Barrett, an Oxon Hill civic leader who has served on the panel since it was created in 1990.
Kaplan said she was aware that her term was expiring and that she would be replaced.
"I knew they were working hard on it," she said. "I know they wanted to get it taken care of" as soon as possible.
Kaplan had blamed the panel's troubles on computer problems and transition adjustments stemming from the appointment of five new members in 1996.
Smith said his resignation "had nothing to do" with criticism of the panel. He said he asked Curry to replace him because he no longer had time to serve.
CAPTION: Prince George's County Executive Wayne K. Curry has replaced police oversight panel leaders whose terms expired nearly a year ago.