County Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) continues to take heat over his selections for the six-member Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
And the County Council continues to approve them.
First it was Prem Agarwal, who was appointed to the commission in July 2003. Agarwal came under fire after his company was listed as a subcontractor to do work for the agency while he was on the board.
Then it was Joyce A. Starks, who was selected in February 2004. Questions were soon raised about her qualifications.
This week, the council gave Johnson's selection of Juanita D. Miller the green light.
Miller replaces Artis G. Hampshire-Cowan, who ended a four-year term in June.
Miller, of Clinton, is not new to the WSSC, which provides water and sewer service to Prince George's and Montgomery counties. She served on the commission from 1996 to 2002.
A former member of the House of Delegates, Miller was in the middle of some of the agency's most bitter disputes over minority contracting during her first stint on the board.
In 1997, she led an attempt to reject the low bid of a white-owned company for an $11.5 million sludge hauling contract. She supported the third-lowest bidder, MTI Construction Inc., a minority-run company whose owner had contributed to her political campaigns.
Del. Brian R. Moe (D-Prince George's), who has been critical of Johnson's appointments, said he was disappointed and surprised that Johnson would select someone with Miller's history. But, he said, he will keep a "wait-and-see attitude."
Miller is making a reappearance at a somewhat volatile time.
Infighting at the WSSC in the past year resulted in the resignation of three commissioners appointed by Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) and buyouts of the contracts of the general manager and his deputy. Lawmakers tried to remove Johnson's appointees to the commission, but the bill failed in the General Assembly.
Yesterday's vote was more than three months in the making.
Johnson planned to put Miller's name forward in July, before the council's August recess. But council Chairman Samuel H. Dean (D-Mitchellville) asked Johnson to submit the nomination in the fall.
Planning Board Selection
It looks as if Johnson will give the council another nomination to consider.
Johnson has hinted that he will select Donna Wilson, director of the county's Department of Environmental Resources, to replace Elizabeth "Betty" M. Hewlett as chairman of the county's Planning Board. Hewlett's term ended in June, but she has remained in the position during the selection process for a successor. Hewlett has served on the board about 10 years.
If nominated and approved, Wilson also would become part of the 10-member Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, a quasi-judicial agency with representatives from Prince George's and Montgomery counties that has taxing authority, runs the counties' parks and makes land-use decisions.
Wilson was hired by Johnson two years ago. She previously worked as a lawyer for Goodwill Industries.
Johnson, trying to gain control of the powerful panel, tried unsuccessfully to oust Hewlett shortly after he was elected in 2002.
He originally sought sole authority to remove the Prince George's commissioners. Then he pushed a bill through the General Assembly that would have allowed him to remove members, name new ones and make their terms concurrent with his. It was vetoed by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R).
Chairmanship of the panel, which rotates between the heads of the two counties' planning boards, is considered one of the most powerful positions in local government.
Other names -- including Alfonso N. Cornish, deputy chief administrative officer for governmental services, and Ronald Russell, a former council member and one of Wilson's deputy directors in the Department of Environmental Resources -- have been swirling for months as a possible replacement for Hewlett.