By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun
8:42 PM EST, February 13, 2013
With the deadline looming Friday, only one person has applied to replace John R. Leopold as Anne Arundel County executive as other potential candidates weighed their options.
Tom Angelis of Davidsonville, a former candidate for county executive and the county Recreation and Parks Department director in 1997 and 1998, said he filed shortly before offices closed Wednesday.
At least a half-dozen other candidates may apply, and if some of them bid for the job, it might affect which council members can cast votes. A county ethics commission advisory opinion suggests that some Republicans on the seven-member council may have a conflict of interest in voting for a new executive.
Leopold, 70, resigned after he was convicted last month of misconduct in office. By law, the County Council has 30 days to choose a replacement who must, like Leopold, be a Republican. The council is set to interview candidates and vote next Thursday.
In its December opinion, the ethics commission said a council member who's a candidate shouldn't take part in the selection process because it's a conflict of interest. The opinion, advisory in nature, carries no force of law.
Two council members, Jerry Walker of Gambrills and John Grasso of Glen Burnie, have expressed interest in the $130,000-a-year position. Grasso said Wednesday he probably won't seek it, and Walker said, "I am still waiting to see who is in the mix and trying to figure it out."
Walker declined to say if he'd vote for himself. Grasso, a declared 2014 candidate for county executive, initially said he'd seek to complete Leopold's term, then said his plans could change.
The ethics commission also said that a council member who benefits from close financial ties to a person involved in a matter before the council should not participate in the replacement vote.
That could affect a third Republican council member, Derek Fink of Pasadena. Fink is a business partner of Del. Steve Schuh of Gibson Island, who said he'll apply for the post. Schuh has an exploratory committee for a 2014 run for county executive and more than $500,000 in campaign funds.
Fink, Schuh and others are investors in four Greene Turtle restaurants that Fink oversees. The nature of the business gives Schuh no say over his job, Fink said, so he doesn't think it will be an issue. He added that he has spoken with members of the ethics panel this week.
"We are going to wait to hear what the ethics commission has to say," he said.
The ethics opinion also applies to Democrats on the council, but the three of them have not disclosed any business connections to Republicans considering the post.
As a result, the opinion looms as a factor in the decision. If some Republican members can't vote or decline to, it could put the election in the hands of the council's Democrats.
"You ostensibly could have the decision being made by four-sevenths of the council, only one of whom is a member of the same party we are putting into the job," said Jamie Benoit, a Crownsville Democrat.
"It's wild and woolly," said Dan Nataf, director of the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College. "We could have a majority of Democrats in effect trumping the four Republicans."
Nataf said the situation could allow Democrats to push for a caretaker — someone likely to leave the field "open" for the 2014 election.
Attorney Kendel Ehrlich, wife of former Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr., may fit that bill. She said she is considering applying to fill Leopold's term but is not planning a 2014 run. "I am 75 percent in. If it were shown to me that someone has four strong votes — I would not interrupt that kind of unity at this point," she said Wednesday.
Acting County Executive John Hammond, who also is chief administrative officer and was the longtime county budget chief, is weighing whether to seek the office. Also considering whether to apply is David Cordle, chief investigator for the county prosecutor's office and a former Annapolis alderman.
Two others who have considered the post, State Sen. Ed Reilly of the Crofton area and former Senate candidate Dan Bongino of Severna Park, say they won't apply.
Reilly is moderating a West County Republican Club's candidate forum Thursday at the West County library. Schuh, Ehrlich and Angelis said they'll attend, although voters won't be casting ballots next week.
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