Prince George's to require some officials to live in county

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Photo - Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker (Examiner file photo)
Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker (Examiner file photo)
Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

Candidates and appointees to Prince George's County boards and commissions must now live within the county, according to a bill passed unanimously in council Tuesday.

The measure requires candidates and appointees to reside in the county at the time of their confirmation, maintain county residency during their term and resign immediately if they move out.

"We have so many people who live here, who are qualified, who have a vested interest," Council Chairwoman Andrea Harrison, D-Bladensburg, said. "We just believe that members of our boards and commissions should be residents of Prince George's County."

The bill comes after County Executive Rushern Baker appointed a Charles County resident, Christopher Aragona, to the Redevelopment Authority. Though Aragona's law firm is based in Oxon Hill, the move was met with criticism from council members and county residents.

Harrison said that county residence was always an unspoken requirement, but that Aragona's appointment had pushed the council to formalize the rule and put it on the books.

"The county executive has a right to appoint any individual he wants," Harrison said. "But we believe in the people of Prince George's County."

Baker will sign the residency requirement bill into law, according to spokesman Scott Peterson.

"Since taking office, the Baker Administration has put forth over 100 nominees for County boards and commissions and only two were nonresidents," Peterson said in an email. "In each of these cases, one for the Redevelopment Authority and the other for the Art in Public Places Panel, the individuals were very involved in the community, owned businesses in the county and made significant contributions to help make Prince County a great place to live, invest work and visit,"

The second nonresident, Alec Simpson, is the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission's representative on the county's Art in Public Places Panel. Simpson keeps a studio in Mount Rainier and was formerly the director of Brentwood Arts Exchange, also located in Prince George's. He lives in the District of Columbia.

While the Art in Public Places seat is a volunteer position, appointees to the Redevelopment Authority receive $300 a month in compensation.

Prince George's County school board member Rosalind Johnson resigned her seat after it was revealed she had been living outside her district for four months -- a violation of state law. Aragona and Simpson will be able to retain their positions, though, as current appointees are grandfathered in under the bill.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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