Leonardtown, MD — In an unusual move, the St. Mary’s County Board of Education has approved the hiring of an independent counsel to investigate what has been called “unlawful disclosure of confidential personnel information.” The attorney, whose name has not been disclosed, will be hired at $300 an hour.

The specific circumstances that led to the hiring of the independent counsel were not disclosed, although it is believed it involves personnel records of Deputy Superintendent of Schools & Operations J. Bradley Clements. When Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Martirano announced he was leaving to become State Superintendent in West Virginia, Clements’ name surfaced as the possible interim superintendent. He had the support of the Education Association of St. Mary’s, which represents the teachers.

But then Clements withdrew his name from consideration, saying his appointment had become controversial.

The appointment of an independent counsel was originally on the “Consent Agenda” for the August 27th regular board meeting. But board member Marilyn Crosby asked that the item be placed on the regular agenda for discussion and vote. The consent agenda is voted on as a block without discussion.

Crosby noted that there was a provision in the board bylaws that protects them if they have “acted in good faith.” She reminded the board members that they are elected by the people of St. Mary’s County and not by other board members.

Crosby also wanted to know if there was an upper limit to how much the counsel could charge. She then answered her own question by saying, “I guess whatever it takes.”

There was little other discussion other than Chairman Dr. Sal Raspa explaining that the counsel would investigate leaks to the press of confidential personnel information.

The decision to hire the independent counsel was unanimous.