Prince George's County exec wants waiver for county's residency requirement

Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly,Prince Georges County

Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker is asking for an exemption to a law passed seven months ago mandating that appointees to county boards and commissions live within the county.

In a proposal submitted to the council Tuesday, Baker requested that he be allowed to appoint Public Employee Relations Board members who do not live in Prince George's County. Appointees to the board are "required to possess specialized skills, expertise and knowledge," according to the proposal.

"[The Public Employee Relations Board] works differently than other boards and commissions," said Baker spokesman Scott Peterson. "The composition is regulated by the Labor Code, which specifies that appointments must be made from a list of names obtained from American Arbitration Association and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service."

The board is meant to administer the county's Labor Code with respect to legal representation, unfair labor practices and bargaining disputes. When the American Arbitration Association and Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service present lists of candidates, Peterson said, the county has access only to their business addresses.

"This is meant to be more of an arm's-length process," he said. "Thus, the pool of possible appointments is restricted to the names received from these agencies."

The residency requirement was passed after Baker appointed a Charles County resident, Christopher Aragona, to the Prince George's County Redevelopment Authority, a move that was met with criticism from council members and residents. The measure requires appointees to live in the county at the time of their confirmation, remain in the county for 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 when the requirement passed. "We just believe that members of our boards and commissions should be residents of Prince George's County."

In an earlier case, county school board member Rosalind Johnson resigned her seat after it was revealed she had been living outside her district for four months, which is a violation of Maryland law.

Another outsider, D.C. resident Alec Simpson, is the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission's representative on the county's Art in Public Places Panel. Simpson and Aragona were both allowed to keep their positions thanks to a grandfather clause. Peterson stressed that both were "very involved in the community, owned businesses in the county and made significant contributions" to Prince George's.

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