Handling of Alston replacement a mess
One can only hope that the sordid drama in filling Tiffany T. Alston’s former seat in District 24 of the House of Delegates is finally coming to an end. Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) is expected to make a selection shortly. On Tuesday night, the 24-member Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee rescinded its original nominee for the seat, Greg Hall, and suggested three other names: Clayton Aarons, Vicky L. Ivory-Orem and Phillip Raines. Based off a ruling earlier this month by the Maryland Court of Appeals, O’Malley gets to pick whomever he would like, whether it’s one of the three or someone else.
The central committee’s role in this messy saga can serve as sort of a reverse primer on how to choose a viable replacement for a lawmaker who has been forced from office.
To recap briefly, Alston took her seat in the House on Jan. 12, 2011. Seventeen months later, she was convicted in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court of theft of General Assembly funds and misconduct in office. Eventually, Alston agreed to an Alford Plea to a separate of fraudulent misappropriation by a fiduciary and received a suspended sentence, a fine and had to complete 300 hours of community service. After completion of the terms, she was granted probation before judgment.
That’s when things really got interesting. She wanted her seat back and went to court in that pursuit, even though the Attorney General’s Office opined that she had forfeited her claim to the seat. A Circuit Court judge ruled against her in December, and so later did Maryland’s highest court.
In the interim, the central committee selected Greg Hall, a community activist and businessman, to replace Alston. He, too, ended up in court after the committee sought to withdraw his nomination. It had come to light that Hall, an admitted former drug dealer, was implicated in a 1992 shootout that left a teen bystander dead. Hall ultimately was convicted of a misdemeanor gun charge in connection with the shooting.
Both the Circuit Court and the Court of Appeals ruled against Hall, too, which brings us back to Tuesday night. Gazette staff writer Daniel Leaderman described as contentious the meeting during which the central committee formally revoked Hall’s nomination. Hall aimed verbal barbs at the governor and had a testy exchange with committee Chairman Terry Speigner, who had sought the nomination in November, only to lose to Hall.
Also during the meeting, one of the committee members questioned why the three new names were being forwarded before the candidates had been fully vetted. Speigner replied that the names weren’t unfamiliar, having surfaced a month earlier in the media.
(For the record, Ivory-Orem is an Orphans’ Court judge in the county, Aarons was a prosecutor in the State’s Attorney’s Office for a decade before going into private practice, and Raines is a project manager and IT consultant for the Defense Department at Fort Meade.)
Throughout this ordeal, the central committee has come off as largely incompetent. It clearly hadn’t thought through its decision to nominate a former convict, especially while the image of Prince George’s continues to suffer because of the criminal wrongdoings of former politicians. And while the three new candidates seem respectable, questions, obviously, are still being raised internally about the selection process.
At this point, the best denouement would be for O’Malley to quickly announce his choice –– a “safe” one, presumably –– for Alston’s successor and for the Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee to do some critical self-reflection.