The day after an emotional Anne Arundel County Council meeting ended without a selection to fill the open District 1 seat, council members said they remained firm in their positions but were hoping to end the stalemate before they reconvene Tuesday.
The council met Thursday night to fill the position vacated by former Councilman Daryl D. Jones, who began serving a five-month federal prison term last month. The 41/2-hour meeting was marked by shouting, a racial slur, accusations of bullying and a 3-3 deadlocked vote over two candidates.
Former state Sen. Michael J. Wagner of Ferndale and Marine reservist Peter I. Smith of Severn were selected as finalists among 10 Democratic applicants in a process that included 101 rounds of voting. The council ultimately voted to resume the process next week.
"Hopefully, we can work out some kind of agreement," Council Chairman Derek Fink, a Pasadena Republican who supports Wagner, said Friday. "Somebody's got to … change their vote. There will be a lot of back-and-forth phone calls and emails and text messages in trying to get somebody to compromise and go one way or the other."
On Thursday, the fireworks started within the first 10 minutes of the meeting in downtown Annapolis.
Lewis A. Bracy, a retired federal worker who was one of 10 applicants for the seat, said he thought he should get the appointment, in part because "people in the county need to see a diverse person on the podium."
Bracy is African-American. Jones, a Democrat, was the second African-American to serve on the council.
Fink, who presides over the all-male and all-white body, was incredulous. "I can't believe that today I'm being asked to vote for someone … solely on diversity. It just blows my mind."
Bracy countered: "When's the last time you had an African-American in your house for dinner?
Fink responded, "I don't even have my brother over for dinner. … It's a ridiculous question."
The deadlocked council adjourned about 11:30 p.m. without picking its new member. The council has until Wednesday — 30 days after Jones' seat was declared vacant — to appoint a replacement.
Councilman John J. Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican, asked all the applicants the same series of questions: Would you do the job for free? If you were Daryl Jones, would you have resigned? What's the definition of "diversity"?
When applicant Gloria Criss, a retired federal worker, hesitated as Grasso asked for her opinion on Jones, Grasso shouted, "Pick a side!"
While questioning a candidate with a military background, Councilman Richard B. "Dick" Ladd, a Broadneck Republican, used an ethnic slur to describe his service during the Vietnam War, saying, "I was there chasing down the gooks."
The comment elicited gasps from the audience assembled to watch the process play out. Ladd later apologized.
About 10 p.m., after the council had finished the interviews, it took its first vote, with each council member casting a voice vote for the candidate of his choice. Smith, Wagner and Richard W. "Rik" Forgo, an Air Force veteran from Linthicum, moved forward to the next stage.
Then came Round Two: three votes for Smith — Democrats Jamie Benoit of Crownsville and Chris Trumbauer of Annapolis, and Republican Jerry Walker of Gambrills. And three votes for Wagner — Grasso, Fink and Ladd.
Ninety-nine more ballots would come, and each councilman would stick to his vote, repeating the same name each time council administrator Beth Jones called for the voice vote. "No candidates are a majority," Jones repeated over and over.
After six ballots, Grasso said jokingly, "All right, ladies, we're going to be here all night."
Three ballots later, Grasso demanded an explanation from his colleagues as to why they weren't backing Wagner.