This story was updated at 2 p.m. Nov. 21.
Now that Maryland’s attorney general has stated that former Del. Tiffany T. Alston shouldn’t be allowed to reclaim her seat, Gov. Martin O’Malley is balking at the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee’s choice to replace her.
Meanwhile, that central committee selection, community activist Greg Hall, and Alston are each readying legal action against the state.
Earlier this month, the 24-member central committee tapped Hall, who has a criminal record from his younger days, to take over Alston’s seat.
Raquel Guillory, O’Malley’s spokeswoman, said Wednesday morning that the governor would prefer that Hall’s name be withdrawn.
“He believes that there are plenty of people in Prince George’s County that he would be happy to appoint,” Guillory said.
O’Malley (D) requested late last week that the committee withdraw Hall’s nomination and take no further action pending an official opinion on the Alston situation.
That opinion came Tuesday in a letter from Attorney Douglas F. Gansler to O’Malley (D). “Alston was removed from office, by operation of law, by virtue of her official misconduct and her waiver of rights to appeal,” Gansler wrote.
Earlier this month, Dan Friedman, who serves as counsel to the legislature in the attorney general’s office, also argued for Alston’s removal in an advisory letter to House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis.
The central committee decided Tuesday not to act on the governor’s request to withdraw the nomination, pending a legal challenge from Hall filed earlier in the day.
Hall sought a temporary restraining order to prevent the committee from withdrawing his name. The committee voted, 12-8, to take no action on the governor’s request until after a court hearing on the restraining order is held. No hearing had been scheduled as of Wednesday.
Hall’s lawyer, Walter Green, said that because O’Malley had received Gansler’s opinion, there was no need to withdraw Hall’s name.
The Maryland Constitution stipulates that the governor must appoint the committee’s nominee within 15 days.
The committee does have the power to withdraw Hall’s name, according to the Attorney General’s Office.
O’Malley has until Monday to move forward with Hall’s nomination, Guillory said. But the legal issue needed to play out, she said.
In the meantime, Alston (D-Dist. 24) of Mitchellville said she and her attorneys now will prepare to file suit against the state to regain her seat.
Alston was given a one-year, suspended jail sentence in October for misusing General Assembly funds. But after she completed her community service requirement and paid restitution to the legislature, Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Paul Harris converted her sentence to probation before judgment — effectively striking her conviction from the record.
Alston and her legal team say there’s now no basis for her removal from office, but the state’s lawyers say she’s been out since agreeing to a plea deal in October.
“I have tried to be diplomatic in resolving this issue,” Alston said. “It’s clear to me that the only way I will get any fair and equitable treatment is in a court of law.
“I think it’s outrageous that people are so easily willing to not follow Maryland’s Constitution,” she said.
As for her presumed replacement, Hall’s nomination has been controversial due to his criminal baggage. He faced drug and handgun possession charges between 1991 and 1995, and was temporarily implicated in a 1992 shoot-out that left a 13-year-old boy dead.
Hall said Tuesday night that he did not think his past had been a factor in O’Malley’s request that his nomination be put on hold. “I believe our governor believes in redemption,” he said.
Gansler’s office also issued a pair of separate advisory letters on the Alston situation Tuesday.
One, addressed to Del. Jolene Ivey (D-Dist. 47) of Cheverly, who chairs the Prince George’s County House delegation, said that while the central committee could legally withdraw Hall’s name, any subsequent recommendation to fill the vacancy would not be binding on the governor.
The other letter, addressed to Del. Jill Carter (D-Dist. 41) of Baltimore, declared that Alston could not be the committee’s choice to fill the vacancy created by her own removal.