If there's anyone who knows Prince George's County Executive Jack B. Johnson, it's Marcell Solomon.
Solomon is not only Johnson's friend. He's his personal attorney.
On Tuesday, he also became the county executive's appointee to the Washington Suburban Transit Commission and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The County Council approved the nomination unanimously.
Solomon, a resident of Bowie, replaces John Davey, who served on the commission for 12 years. Solomon's term ends May 2004.
Solomon will be paid up to $115 per hour, not to exceed $31,215. The current contract, which began Feb. 1, runs through June 30. Jim Keary, a spokesman for Johnson, said the contract would be renegotiated when it ends.
Johnson introduced his nominee to the council, calling him a longtime friend who will bring an extensive legal background to the commission.
"He's a South Carolinian like I am," Johnson said. "He went to Benedict College, same college as I did."
Lobbyist Michael Arrington, businessman and Johnson confidante Wilbert Wilson and a representative for Del. Obie Patterson (D-Fort Washington) also spoke on Solomon's behalf at the public hearing to consider Solomon's nomination.
Solomon represented former Washington Wizard Chris Webber and helped get him acquitted of drug and assault charges stemming from a 1998 traffic stop.
Russell Back in Government
Ronald V. Russell, the former two-term county councilman from Mitchellville, publicly flirted with the notion last year of running for county executive. Russell chose to sit out the race, but he picked sides, endorsing Johnson, and donating $6,000 to his campaign.
Now, Johnson has hired Russell as a county consultant , paying him $80,000 to advise on issues concerning development, school construction and zoning -- about $20,000 more than Russell earned as a lawmaker. The contract runs from Dec. 16 to July 31.
Russell is among an array of consultants that Johnson has added to the county's payroll. The others include: Patrick Murphy, the former New York City police commissioner who's earning $125,000 to review the police force; Michael Arrington, who's getting $60,000 to lobby for the county in Annapolis; former state delegate Joan Pitkin, who's getting $25,000 to lobby in Annapolis.
Ministers Criticize Johnson
Calling him "King" Jack, a coalition of ministers accused Johnson of governing like a monarch this week following his selection of Melvin C. High, police chief in Norfolk, Va., as the county's chief of police.
"We have a duty to call the government to account for its actions," said the Rev. Kathy Hlatshwayo, pastor of Bethany Lutheran Church in Suitland, who hosted a news conference Tuesday in which ministers across the spectrum of faith and race spoke out against Johnson's governing style.
Khalil Shadeed, president of the Islamic Society of Southern Prince George's County, said Johnson's selection of High without community input is a troubling sign of a governance style that is different from the Johnson he knew as state's attorney and a candidate. "He is tending to operate like a king instead of in the spirit of democracy."
The Rev. Don Cameron-Kragt, pastor of the Davies Unitarian Universalist Church in Camp Springs, asked, "What direction is the county going ?"
Black Voices on Slots
A parade of prominent black businessmen and sports celebrities -- Julius Erving, among them -- has been descending on Annapolis in recent weeks to lobby for legalization of slots machines.
But one group missing from the debate has been ministers from Prince George's County. Instead the main opposition has been from Baltimore ministers such as the Rev. P.M. Smith, pastor of the 1,000-member Huber Memorial United Church of Christ.
"It's really about family. I would rather pay extra taxes than deal with this evil," Smith said during testimony before the Senate Committee on Budget and Taxation.
State Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah, (D-Hillcrest Heights), a committee member, stepped outside at one point to confer with Don Barden, who owns casinos in Las Vegas, Indiana and Mississippi.
"I think that slots can help the community, especially in Baltimore because they can generate revenue and spur community redevelopment," Barden said in an interview. "People are already gaming and playing the lottery. This just allows the community to keep some of the money."
Lawlah returned to the hearing room and lectured racing officials Joe DeFrancis, of the Pimlico racing family, and Jim McAlpine, chief executive of Magna Entertainment on the importance of minority participation in Maryland.
"This industry looks like an all-white industry," Lawlah said. "So how do you paint a picture that provides inclusion?"
McAlpine told Lawlah that the racing industry wants minority participation. "We are quite prepared to entertain the idea of having minority owners in our facilities."
Tom Chockas, operator of Rosecroft Raceway in Oxon Hill, said if slots came to Maryland it could be a big plus for the county and the proposed National Harbor shopping and entertainment development near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
Fond Memories of Dunn
A large crowd came to Largo Community Church last weekend to mourn the death of Reginald Dunn, vice president of the Maryland Board of Education, who died Feb. 21.
"He never missed the opportunity to help someone," said Jo Ann Bell, a fellow member of the state board of education, during the three-hour service attended by Johnson, schools chief Iris T. Metts, U.S. Rep. Albert R. Wynn, (D) as well as hundreds of civic leaders and community activists.
From championing educational issues to hosting parties at his Woodmore home, friends and admirers described Dunn as a man whose personality matched his husky frame.
"Reggie and I came up on different sides of Prince George's politics," Johnson said. He said he still couldn't understand how Dunn won over his son and persuaded him to attend the Million Man March. "On the morning of the march, my 12-year-old said, 'I am going with Mr. Dunn.' "
"I love Reggie Dunn," said former Tennessee congressman Harold Ford, a college classmate at Tennessee State. "We're going to miss him."
Ivey Draws a Crowd
More than 160 people braved a winter storm last week to attend State's Attorney Glenn Ivey's fundraiser.
They got to mingle with Ivey and munch on egg rolls and beef satay. Tickets were $100, $250 and $500. County Sheriff Michael Jackson and councilman David Harrington (D-Bladensburg) were among the guests.
The party featured a two-minute video of Ivey meeting with community groups. Ivey spoke of his priorities: launching a cross-border initiative with D.C. law enforcement officials to battle crime along the Washington-Prince George's border, shutting down crack houses, and combating domestic violence.
The county's top prosecutor asked people who are interested to join his Community Action Group, a collection of volunteers who are helping develop strategies on 12 Ivey initiatives, such as combating drugs and guns crimes. A number of assistant state's attorneys attended and wrote checks, which Ivey promptly returned, said the prosecutor's spokesman, Ramon V. Korionoff.
"We didn't want people who work in the office to feel pressured that they had to contribute money," Korionoff said. That's a change from Johnson, Ivey's predecessor, who during his two terms as state's attorney and his successful campaign last year for county executive, accepted political contributions from prosecutors who worked for him.
Ivey's event is expected to raise about $20,000 as he rebuilds his campaign treasury.
Staff writers Ruben Castaneda and Hamil R. Harris contributed to this report.