Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller is criticizing the Maryland State House Trust for voting by email to remove the statue of Roger B. Taney from the State House lawn in Annapolis.
Miller says a public meeting should have been held instead.
“This was certainly a matter of such consequence that the transparency of a public meeting and public conversation should have occurred,” Miller wrote Thursday in a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan, who chairs the trust. “This was not an ordinary matter of business before the Trust.”
The State House Trust rarely meets in person, often casting votes by email for matters such as approving new plantings on the grounds or giving the go-ahead for performances in the building.
On Wednesday, State House Trust members were polled by email and three members voted for the Taney statue’s removal: Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, who represents Hogan on the trust; House Speaker Michael E. Busch; and Charles L. Edson, who represents the Maryland Historical Trust. Miller did not vote.
Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Hogan, said “Miller is completely within his right to continue defending Roger Taney. We have to agree to disagree.”
Taney, a Maryland native, was chief justice of the Supreme Court and author of the infamous 1857 Dred Scott decision that upheld slavery and found that black Americans could not be citizens.
The decision has led Taney to be linked to other Confederate leaders.
Miller acknowledged “the inflammatory and derogatory language” and the fallout of the Dred Scott decision. But he noted that Taney also “served with distinction” in a series of public offices, including as a state lawmaker, state attorney general and U.S. attorney general.
Miller also noted that Taney freed his slaves and remained loyal to the Union. Miller said Taney’s “complex history” is often lost amid discussion.
Miller also cited the installation of a statue of late Justice Thurgood Marshall on the opposite side of the State House as “a very public and purposeful compromise to give balance to the State House grounds recognizing our State and our Country have a flawed history.”