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Delegate appointment process to remain private

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- Original Credit: (HANDOUT)

Despite Gov. Larry Hogan's public request that central committees in the state keep their recommendation processes open and transparent, his Office of Appointments is refusing to do the same as it relates to appointing relative unknown April Rose to the House of Delegates last month.

Hogan's plea to the central committees came during a Jan. 13 meeting with media during which he said he would like to see a more open recommendation process from central committees throughout the state, as well as more candidate names for him to fill legislative seats vacated when Hogan tapped several of those individuals to join his administration.

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After two weeks of attempts by the Times seeking details of the appointment process of Rose from both the Office of Appointments and the governor's Office of Communications, Hogan's Press Secretary Shareese Churchill said the appointments office was refusing to release the information because it was not included in the state's Public Information Act.

The official statement from the appointments office is that "due to the fact Carroll County's Republican central committee didn't make a recommendation to the Governor, it was his duty and obligation to select a candidate. After a thorough vetting process, which included interviewing more than a half dozen candidates, Governor Hogan chose April Rose and is confident she will serve the citizens of Carroll County well."

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Hogan's initial request was in response to a decision by the Carroll County Republican Central Committee in early January to not involve the public in the process or release the names of those who applied for the District 5 Senate seat vacated when Joe Getty took a position in Hogan's cabinet.

That set off a chain of events that ultimately saw Ready promoted to the Senate seat and the central committee purposefully let the constitutionally mandated 30-day deadline to submit a name expire after litigation among members regarding how many names should be sent to the governor. That gave Hogan the sole discretion of appointing Ready's replacement.

On March 13, Hogan announced the appointment of Rose to succeed Ready in the House of Delegates.

Interview experiences varied

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Of the three individuals who confirmed to the Times they interviewed for the position in addition to Rose, the process varied.

Don Hoffman, a member of the Carroll Republican Central Committee; Steve Nevin, a local businessman who ran unsuccessful campaigns for county commissioner in 1998 and the Board of Education in 2000; and Martin "Marty" Hill, a well-known philanthropist and businessman, each confirmed they were interviewed by the governor's office for the vacant delegate seat.

Josh Stonko, who finished fourth in the 2014 Republican primary for delegate in District 5, as well as Joe Burns, Carroll's former ethics administrator, were rumored to have been interviewed as well. When reached by phone Friday, Stonko refused to comment, and Burns did not return a phone message.

The people who spoke with the Times said that while the questions asked were similar, at least two were asked questions that others were not, and there was great disparity between the interview duration.

Nevin said his interview lasted for no more than 20 minutes, and he was disappointed in the questions he was asked, which had nothing to do with his political views, how he hoped to impact the General Assembly, or why he was better suited to the position than other candidates.

"I wouldn't call it an interview," Nevin said. "It was more of a rectal exam. I was quite irritated by [the appointments office's] lack of professionalism and lack of time."

He said he was asked probing questions about his lifestyle and habits, including whether he was an alcoholic or a drug user.

Hoffman said he was asked similar questions, and it was his impression the questions were designed to identify anything in his past that could potentially embarrass the governor if he was selected.

Hoffman said he was prepared to discuss his qualifications, and why he would be better suited as a delegate, but Katja Bullock, the executive assistant at the appointments office who conducted the interviews, did not ask him about this.

Hill said he was asked about his background, including questions about his previous campaign contributions, but was also asked why he wanted to fill the vacant delegate seat.

"My answer was a reiteration that I put in writing [in the Republican central committee's questionnaire], that I had a strong business background and that I would be beneficial to the government process," Hill said.

However, his interview lasted for about an hour-and-a-half, he said.

Bullock had prepared multiple pages of questions for Hill, he said, and none of his answers "created any issues."

Bullock did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment by 6 p.m. Friday.

Rose said she could not recall how long her interview was, but said she spent a significant portion of it discussing her background and work history.

Rose did not remember if she was asked questions that sought to determine if she might possibly embarrass the governor if appointed.

"I don't really remember because it was a typical, average interview," Rose said.

Matt Helminiak, member of the Carroll Republican Central Committee, said questions pertaining to a person's background — particularly any potentially embarrassing information — are commonly asked when seeking government employment in Annapolis.

"[They are] trying to find out what is wrong that could get [them] in trouble; it's standard," Helminiak said.

Nevin said that while he was disappointed in the entire process — the appointments office failed to give him a courtesy call informing him he was not selected — he was not surprised Rose was selected.

"The true answer [why she was selected] is Getty and Ready wanted someone in [the House of Delegates] they could control and someone who wouldn't make Justin look like an idiot," he said.

Ready countered that the choice to appoint Rose was entirely up to the governor.

"The governor made a very good choice out of a lot of qualified applicants," Ready said. "We are working well together and our entire District 5 team is focused on working hard to represent our constituents and work with Hogan to advance his agenda."

Rose said that since her appointment, she has been focusing on doing what is best for the county and her constituents.

"I've been working really hard [in Annapolis], and it's an honor and a privilege," she said. "I'm moving forward with my fellow delegates and senators across the street. I hope that I can gain the trust of the voters in the future, but that's a long way off."

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