Montgomery County voters soon may have a new way to choose a county executive if the seat is vacated in the middle of a term.
On Jan. 28, County Council Vice President George Leventhal wrote to Montgomery’s House and Senate delegation leaders, asking about a possible state constitutional amendment for a special election if an executive leaves office.
An amendment would let the county change its charter or county code to allow a special election.
The letter was endorsed by the other council members, but was sent before the council voted on Jan. 28 to appoint Cherri Branson to its District 5 seat.
Del. Anne Kaiser (D-Dist. 14) of Silver Spring, the chair of Montgomery’s House delegation, said Thursday she was drafting legislation to create a structure for filling executive vacancies that parallels the one for those on the council.
The county charter currently allows for a special election to fill a vacant seat on the County Council if the opening occurs before Dec. 1 in the year before an election is scheduled.
But the charter requires that county executive vacancies be filled by a vote of at least five members of the nine-member council.
If an appointment isn’t made within 45 days, the council must appoint a nominee chosen by the county central committee of the elected executive’s political party.
Leventhal said Thursday that it’s odd there would be a special election for council seats, but voters would have no say in the replacement of an executive.
He said he was partially motivated by the resignation of Anne Arundel County Executive John Leopold, who left office after his conviction in January 2013 for misusing his security detail for political activities and other improper activities using security staff and county employees.
The resignation in January of former District 5 Councilwoman Valerie Ervin to take a job as executive director of a New York-based nonprofit also influenced his decision, highlighting the absence of a special-election process for county executive, Leventhal said.
Maryland law currently requires all state and county elections to be held every four years on the date of the congressional elections. The only exception is for a special election to fill a council seat.
“Because I believe that the voters of the County should have the same opportunity to fill a vacancy in the position of County Executive as they do for a Councilmember, I ask if there is interest on the part of members of the delegation to pursue the necessary amendments to the Maryland Constitution and Code to make this a possibility,” Leventhal wrote.
If the state law were amended, the county could pursue changing the charter and county code amendments needed to make the process to fill the executive post the same as it is for a council opening, he wrote.
Kaiser said she expected the bill to come back to the county delegation by Friday for approval to be introduced, and have a hearing scheduled for Feb. 14.
She said she also would request a review of the legislation by the attorney general’s office.