A power struggle over control of the body that screens candidates for the Anne Arundel County Board of Education is headed to court.
Four members of the School Board Nominating Commission have filed an appeal in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court asking for a ruling on the constitutionality of a new law that would remove them and one other member at the end of May.
Democrats in the Maryland General Assembly passed the contentious measure in March and last month overrode Republican Gov. Larry Hogan's ensuing veto. The law removes all five commission members appointed by the governor and adds new members, including representatives from parents and minority groups as well as two additional appointees for the county executive and a second business chamber seat, expanding the body from 11 to 13 members.
New members are scheduled to join the commission on June 1.
Nominating Commission Chairman Jamie Falcon and members Kam R. Gast, Susannah Warner Kipke and Joan Maynard appealed the measure on Friday.
They argue the legislature overstepped its authority by targeting the governor's appointees for removal without reconstituting the entire commission. A brief submitted with the appeal cites the governor's power, under the state's constitution, to “remove for incompetency, or misconduct, all civil officers who received appointment from the Executive for a term of years.”
"By removing only the gubernatorial appointees from the Commission, the Bill is an attempt by the Legislature to override the established public policy of Maryland, as set forth in (the state constitution), that only the Governor may remove civil officers once they have been appointed to a civil office for a term of years," the brief reads.
"Because the Bill violates the Maryland Constitution, it is an invalid attempt by the General Assembly to exercise powers it does not possess, in violation of the separation of powers doctrine set forth in... the Maryland Declaration of Rights."
The lawsuit also asks to postpone changes to the nominating commission until a decision is made.
The office of Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, who is named as the defendant in the case, declined to comment.
Falcon, Gast, Kipke and Maynard were all appointed by Hogan last July to four-year terms. Commission member Kemp Hammond, another Hogan appointee, was not listed as a plaintiff on the appeal.
When Hogan vetoed the bill in April, he cited advice from his legal counsel, who he said had told him the change was "clearly unconstitutional."
He also objected to the measure on policy grounds.
"In addition to the serious legal problems, the bill would also create a panel made up almost entirely of unelected, unaccountable advocacy organizations, lobbying groups and political operatives, who under this bill would then select the members of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education," Hogan said at the time.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch, D-Annapolis, disagreed with Hogan's assessment. "Clearly the bill is constitutional — the attorney general found that from the outset," he said last month.
Monday, he called the lawsuit "surprising."
"To me, it just kind of highlights how tied in the Republican party was to the appointment process," he said. "The legislature ultimately makes policy initiatives... I just don't see where the standing is for this lawsuit."
Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh, who last month weighed in on the role of politics on the School Board Nominating Commission in an op-ed for The Capital, declined to comment. Schuh vocally opposed the General Assembly bill.
"We've made our thoughts on the legislation known," said Schuh's spokesman, Owen McEvoy. "We will look to the courts to now decide the fate of the legislation."
This story will be updated.