Police union endorses McCrone State's Attorney McLendon, his foe, criticizes the action


Howard County's police union has endorsed Democrat Timothy J. McCrone in his run for the county's top prosecutor, a move that sparked criticism from incumbent State's Attorney Marna McLendon.

McLendon, a Republican, said that she had not been interviewed by the 230-member union's political action committee. That committee recommends endorsements that are voted on by the general membership.

"I have to question the validity of such a process that is totally closed and fails to even contact or hear from the current state's attorney or provide a forum for issues," McLendon said yesterday.

The endorsement of McCrone -- legal adviser to the union -- is considered important because it represents support from people who regularly work with the state's attorney's office. McLendon downplayed it, say-

ing, "It's never meant much in terms of [general] population vote."

The endorsement and $8,500 earned at a fund-raiser for McCrone on Friday night turns up the heat in a race that has been all but dormant. McCrone said that about 130 people attended, including six prosecutors who left McLendon's office amid grumbling about her management style.

Since her campaign started, McLendon has had two major fund-raisers, a barbecue and a letter sent to 800 voters, which have earned about $8,000.

The union has endorsed several other Democrats, including County Council members C. Vernon Gray and Mary C. Lorsung, former Police Chief James N. Robey, who is running for county executive, and one Republican, sheriff's candidate Charles (Chuck) Cave.

Responding to McLendon's criticism of the union endorsement, Dan Besseck, second vice president of the Howard County Police Officers' Association, said the political action committee doesn't always interview candidates before making an endorsement -- especially when the candidates are well known to them.

"She had every opportunity to contact us," Besseck said. He said McLendon had left messages for the union president after members appeared at McCrone's candidacy announcement in March, but that was not enough. "If she really wanted our support, she would have approached us to talk about the issues," he said.

Among the reasons for the endorsement, Besseck said, was concern that the high turnover rate in the state's attorney's office affects prosecutions. Eleven prosecutors -- half the staff -- have left in the past 28 months.

"We've seen a number of attorneys leave because of her management of the office," Besseck said. "If given the opportunity, a lot of them would like to come back, but not under Marna."

Some who attended the fund-raiser said two former prosecutors wore T-shirts bearing their numeric place among those to leave the office.

Said former prosecutor Timothy S. Mitchell: "Tim [McCrone] is just a real decent guy, and I think everyone will recognize that. I think he's the type of candidate who would come through with his campaign promises."

Mitchell, who resigned in February 1996, did not wear one of the numeric T-shirts.

Of the presence of former prosecutors at the fund-raiser, McLendon said: "Obviously, people have the right to support whom they want. I don't know the 'whys.' I hold people accountable, and some people have been uncomfortable with that and would perhaps have preferred [more] laissez-faire management."

Pub Date: 6/30/98

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