Anne Arundel County activists have canceled a press conference planned for Monday during which they had planned to denounce "a climate of insensitivity and intolerance" that they said members of the Anne Arundel County Council have fostered. They will instead wait for the council session Tuesday before making any further statements.

The hope is that members of the Anne Arundel County Council will be able to reach a resolution on the appointment of a new member and decide how to deal with one councilman's racially charged comment, when they reconvene at 2 p.m. Tuesday, said Carl O. Snowden, director of the state attorney general's Office of Civil Rights.


"We have been informed that there is some movement to break the deadlock between the remaining candidates," Snowden wrote in an e-mail to The Sun Monday.

Snowden has had reassurances that the council will deal with the impasse on filling the seat vacated by former Councilman Daryl D. Jones, who began a five-month prison term last month for failure to file tax returns. The departure of Jones, the second African-American member of the council, leaves the panel all-white and all-male.

The two leading contenders for the empty seat are 70-year-old former state Sen. Michael J. Wagner of Ferndale, who is white, and 31-year-old Marine reservist Peter I. Smith of Severn, who is black.

The press conference would have also addressed dissatisfaction with insensitive comments made by Councilman Richard B. "Dick" Ladd during a voting session on Jones' replacement. Ladd, a Vietnam veteran, used the word "gooks" to describe the enemy combatants he battled more than 40 years ago.

"We are cautiously optimistic that the County Council will resolve this matter," Snowden wrote. "The comments that were attributed to Councilman Ladd was not only offensive to the Asian community, they were offensive to all Americans.

"It is our hope that in the future all members of the County Council will not use any language that is offensive and will enter into civil discourse that is designed to bring people together."

Snowden is involved with Anne Arundel's NAACP branch and the African American Leadership Forum, but has been speaking on the issues in a personal capacity, he said.

The six current councilmen are deadlocked on whom to choose: Democrats Jamie Benoit of Crownsville and Chris Trumbauer of Annapolis and Republican Jerry Walker of Gambrills voted for Smith, while Republicans Ladd, who represents Broadneck, John J. Grasso of Glen Burnie and Council Chairman Derek Fink, a Pasadena Republican, voted for Wagner.

The leaders of the unions that represent the bulk of the county's police officers and firefighters weighed in over the holiday weekend, issuing a statement "asking that Councilmen Dick Ladd, John Grasso and Derek Fink set aside discussions of race and diversity" and vote for Smith. They called Smith "independent and free from the corrosive special interests present in our county government."

The Presidents Day protest was organized to encourage the councilmen to re-evaluate their choice of replacement for Jones.

"Members will also call on the County Council to break the deadlock and appoint a member to the County Council," Snowden wrote. "This is the first time in almost 50 years that the County Council is [poised] to be an all-white-male County Council."

"The county's changing and, with that, attitudes must change accordingly," Snowden said by phone Saturday.

Smith, reached by phone Saturday evening, said he was not involved with the protest and was exasperated to hear that racial politics might be entering into the contest for the empty seat.

"The qualities, character and resume of each candidate should speak for itself," Smith said.


Jacqueline Boone Allsup, president of the Anne Arundel County NAACP, said that the organization was not involved with Monday's planned protest. Wagner could not be reached for comment.