Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes yesterday nominated a retired judge, Kenneth C. Proctor, for a seat on the Thoroughbred Board of the Maryland Racing Commission. It was a surprise move one Hughes aide said should be interpreted "as a signal things will be different around here."
Proctor, 71, was nominated to replace Ann F. Mahoney, who is filling out a five-year term that expires June 30.
It has been common knowledge around Annapolis that reappointment was not being considered for Mahoney, the controversial, outspoken member of the board whose appointment in October by acting Gov. Blair Lee III has yet to be confirmed by the state senate. But the racing industry expected Betty Shea Miller, general manager of the Merryland Farm, to replace Mahoney.
Miller, it was learned, had been Hughes' first choice until recently. At the last moment, he chose Proctor.
"The governor is interested in revamping and reforming all of racing in Maryland," said Gene Oishi, Hughes' press secretary. "Judge Proctor is strong and honest with an impeccable reputation. This should be taken as a signal things will be different around here."
A race-track scandal led to the indictment and conviction of former Gov. Marvin Mandel and five of his friends on political corruption charges. Those convictions were overturned recently by an appeals court.
Proctor served in the Baltimore County circuit court and was chief judge at one time. He is remembered as a tough, law-and-order judge who was especially rough on drug offenders.
"He's old, but he's still got a sharp mind," Oishi said. "He's somebody with an inquisitive mind. We think there's something wrong with the whole industry. There is a feeling of a lack of confidence in the board."
Mahoney has spoken out frequently about "us getting our own house in order." Earlier this week, she told the Executive Nominations Committee of the Maryland Senate at her confirmation hearing, "The race tracks run racing, not the commission."
Proctor could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Proctor's appointment is expected to draw opposition from segments of the racing industry that claim the board lacks members knowledgeable of racing. Mahoney has contended that people with "common sense" and a facility for doing things in a business-like fashion are qualified.
Upon hearing of Proctor's appointment yesterday, she said, "I don't see how I can criticize that appointment at all. Maybe something will be done to help racing and that has been my full intention."
She had sought reappointment, but said Hughes has not even returned her phone calls.