The Prince George’s County Council is considering legislation to require that all appointees to county boards and commissions be Prince George’s residents.
The legislation, introduced Sept. 18, stems from concerns expressed by some council members in July about Christopher Aragona, an appointee to the county’s Redevelopment Authority, who lives in Dunkirk but has law offices in Oxon Hill.
In addition to requiring that county government appointments be from Prince George’s, commissioners who move out of the county would be required to resign effective immediately, if the legislation is approved.
Council Chairwoman Andrea Harrison (D-Dist. 5) of Springdale, who introduced CB-65-2012, said after the concerns about Aragona — who was appointed by default after the council failed to provide an up-or-down vote within 45 days of his being nominated by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) — she wanted to make sure such an issue did not come up again with a new slate of appointees.
In July, council members said they were unable to make an up-or-down vote on the nominees before the 45-day deadline because they were delayed by other issues and legislation before the body.
“We’re going to make sure that going forward this issue is handled,” Harrison said. “... We have a lot of people who choose to live here and stay here, and they ought to have the opportunity to serve this county.”
Councilwoman Mary Lehman (D-Dist. 1) of Laurel said she had criticized the appointment of non-county residents because it was inconsistent with a new law requiring members of the county’s volunteer fire commission to be county residents. The new bill, Lehman said, would make county law more fair by extending the requirement to all commissions.
“I didn’t like the fact that it seemed like the fire commission was being singled out,” Lehman said. “It’s an issue of consistency, fairness, and the fact you shouldn’t have to go outside the county to find people to serve on these boards and commissions.”
The bill only would affect future nominees to county boards and commissions. Baker administration spokesman Scott Peterson said the compensation for commissioners varies, but the majority of positions are volunteer, such as the Art in Public Places Panel. Compensation for Redevelopment Authority members is $300 per month, he said.
Peterson said in an email to The Gazette that only two of the more than 100 Baker appointees live outside the county — Aragona and Alec Simpson, who lives in Washington, D.C., and serves on the county’s Art in Public Places Panel — and that Baker will “likely sign” the legislation if it passes.
“Both nonresidential nominees were appointed based on current county residency requirements for those positions,” Peterson said in an email. “In each of these cases...the individuals were very involved in the community, owned businesses in the County and made significant contributions to make Prince George’s County a great place to live, invest, work and visit.”
Peterson said Simpson was nominated by Baker based upon his expertise and work in public art with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. Aragona was chosen based on his business and redevelopment experience, Peterson said.
Peterson said that terms for the various county commissions vary, but did not have exact time frames available Friday.
Councilman Mel Franklin (D-Dist. 9) of Upper Marlboro said he supports the new residency requirement “100 percent.”
“I think it makes sense to have people making the decisions have a vested stake because they live here,” Franklin said. “When you’re making policy in a jurisdiction, you should live in that jurisdiction. Just as I’m making policy that mostly pertains to District 9, it makes sense for member of a board or commission to live in the county as well.”
A committee hearing for the bill has not yet been scheduled. If voted out of the committee, it will face the full County Council for a hearing and vote.