Editor’s Note: This story was edited at 1:15 p.m. Oct. 20 to correct the spelling of Rich Madaleno’s name.
Acting County Attorney John Markovs told the County Council on Tuesday that if he were appointed to fill the job permanently, he would focus on communication, the retention and hiring of exceptional lawyers, and supporting the priorities of the council.
“[One of my priorities] is to maintain a high level of communication with the County Council, and early communication … . We need to increase our communication. I made an effort this year of sending over a guide whenever anything happens in a court case or anything controversial,” Markovs said. “My second priority is I want to ensure the county attorney’s office continues to retain exceptional lawyers and hire exceptional lawyers and staff.”
Markovs, who had been nominated by County Executive Marc Elrich for the permanent post, faced questions from council members about his experience and how he would respond to different situations. Markovs was deputy county attorney when he was appointed by Elrich to serve as acting county attorney in February after the retirement of Marc Hansen, who had served as county attorney for 12 years.
County Chief Administrative Officer Rich Madaleno said Markovs is “the right person to be the county attorney right now” because while in his current role, he has served as the county government’s key representative “in a series of our highest profile, most controversial and most consequential cases.”
According to Madaleno, those cases include negotiations concerning the proposed mixed-use development known as Viva White Oak in the East County and serving as the liaison between the county attorney’s office and the state and federal governments in the embezzlement case involving Byung II “Peter” Bang, the former chief operating officer of the county’s now-defunct Department of Economic Development.
Council Vice President Evan Glass asked how Markovs would respond to potentially high-profile litigation.
“I have concerns that society at large is becoming even more litigious if that is even possible … . I think notably, people are watching us and those who disagree with some of our progressive policies want to highlight and or make an example of us,” Glass said.
Markovs said he is prepared to respond to such situations.
“You’re absolutely correct. We’re in a constant state of warfare. The county gets sued routinely,” Markovs said. He said the county is typically sued for a combined sum of at least $1 billion each year, but only ends up paying “fractions” of that.
“We fight off every single challenge, and we’ve been successful,” Markovs said. He said communication is key when it comes to high-profile litigation.
Markovs has worked for the Office of the County Attorney for 15 years, according to the county website. He joined the office in January 2007 and was promoted to deputy county attorney in June 2012. He has served as the county’s lead attorney on major litigation cases, real estate development and construction matters. He previously was in private practice for 18 years, including nine years with McMillan Metro, P.C. and six years with Adams, Porter & Radigan Ltd. He currently also is a part-time adjunct professor at the University of Maryland School of Law, teaching trial advocacy.
Madaleno said Markovs has hired dozens of employees and now 60% of the employees of county attorney’s office are women.
Markovs said he has worked to achieve pay equity among the office’s staff and believes it is important to fill vacancies with staff from diverse backgrounds.
Madaleno said the county executive’s office will continue to bring more candidates for different positions in front of the council over the next few weeks in order to fill vacant positions as quickly as possible.