The city of Annapolis is seeking candidates to serve on the Anne Arundel County Police Accountability Board after Mayor Gavin Buckley’s nominee withdrew his name from consideration.
At a Monday night meeting, the City Council was scheduled to nominate attorney Luke Griffin to represent Annapolis on the nine-member board that will field complaints about law enforcement. Acting Mayor Sheila Finlayson learned Monday afternoon that Griffin had withdrawn his name, forcing her to scuttle his nomination at the last minute, much to the dismay of council members.
Ward 5 Alderman Brooks Schandelmeier threw up his hands when he heard the news from Finlayson, the Ward 4 alderwoman who is standing in for Buckley while he’s on vacation.
“Do we have any alternatives?” Ward 6 Alderman Rob Savidge asked.
The answer to that question, according to Buckley’s chief of staff Cate Pettit, was, “Not yet.”
The Anne Arundel County Police Accountability Board is a new, state-mandated council of citizens that can offer policy advice and provide a forum for public complaints about law enforcement. The county received eight seats on the board, and the city one. County Executive Steuart Pittman set a deadline of July 1 to appoint members, and while the county met the deadline, the city did not.
Council members began considering Griffin for the job last month after he was nominated by Buckley. On June 27, Griffin shared moving testimony about his past experiences with both addiction and alleged police misconduct. Griffin is a recent graduate of the University of Baltimore School of Law, and Buckley said his combination of compelling personal narrative and professional experience qualified him to serve on the accountability board. The council postponed voting on Griffin’s nomination, however, because not enough members had met with the young lawyer.
Monday afternoon, city staffers informed Finlayson that Griffin had withdrawn.
“I understand that this gentleman had some issues, which we won’t get into,” Ward 6 Alderman DaJuan Gay explained, before offering his suggestions to get the position filled.
“What’s most important is that we get behind a candidate that we can all support,” Gay added.
Griffin could not be reached for comment.
Speaking after a June County Council meeting, Pittman said the new board members will begin training this month, but that the city can still nominate a representative.
“They can get started without that [last person],” Pittman said. “We’re good whether they get their name in or not.”
While the county received 89 applicants for the board, the city only got six, Pettit said. One of those six city residents, public health professional Daniel Watkins, also applied to the county, and ended up being a county nominee. A few other applicants were deemed unsuitable, she said.
There is one “good candidate” remaining, but Pettit urged council members to bring forward additional names.
“We welcome nominations,” Pettit said.
The mayor will have a nominee ready before the next Public Safety Committee meeting, she assured the council. The next Public Safety meeting is scheduled for Sept. 5.
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“We will not go long without a representative from the city,” Finlayson said.
By unanimous vote, the council approved changes to the City Code that absolves the city from directly funding the Annapolis Art in Public Places Commission. Ward 1 Alderwoman Elly Tierney initiated the change because under new state legislation that took effect July 1 the commission will now receive 3% of all hotel taxes paid in Annapolis.
Before voting on the measure, several council members again expressed consternation that Genevieve Torri, the commission’s chair, partnered with state Sen. Sarah Elfreth to pass the legislation. The option to receive hotel tax funding has been available to Maryland’s municipal arts councils for more than a decade, but the council was unaware of Torri’s plans and caught off guard by the diversion of tax dollars. During fiscal 2022, the council allocated $67,500 to the commission.
Because the arts commission is now projected to receive $250,000 in hotel taxes to fund murals, concerts, art exhibitions and other free public events, Tierney wanted to remove language in the City Code that required the council to give the commission an annual appropriation.
Before voting, Schandelmeier asked whether the council would still have the option of giving the commission additional funding if members opted to in the future. He was assured that was true.
“I think the flexibility is good,” Schandelmeier said.
Capital reporter Dana Munro contributed to this story.