Maryland voters will be asked to weigh in on a series of hot topics on Nov. 6. Follow Patch to understand the questions that will be asked and what your vote of "yes" or "no" or "for" or "against" actually means.
Carroll County Delegate Susan Krebs, District 9B, sent out the following information in a recent newsletter to constituents.
Question 3 speeds up the removal of an elected official from office when found guilty of a felony or a misdemeanor related to their service as an elected official.
Question 3: Suspension and Removal of Elected Officials
Changes the point at which an elected official charged with certain crimes is automatically suspended or removed from office. Under existing law, an elected official who is convicted or pleads no contest is suspended and is removed only when the conviction becomes final. Under the amended law, an elected official is suspended when found guilty and is removed when the conviction becomes final or when the elected official pleads guilty or no contest.
What it means
Under an opinion from the Attorney General's Office, a person is considered "convicted" at the time of "sentencing," not at the moment when a jury proclaims them guilty. The person can remain in office for months between the conclusion of the trial and their sentencing.
The proposed Constitutional Amendment would remove an official at the time they are found guilty (no pay, no benefits and replacement in office), instead of providing them with a period of suspension. It would remove an individual from office immediately if they enter a guilty plea or enters a plea that they do not contest the charges of a felony, or a misdemeanor related to the official's public duty.
Arguments for voting "For the Constitutional Amendment"
- Removes an elected official immediately from office at the time of the finding of guilt rather than the time of sentencing.
- Provides tougher laws that would help prevent corruption. In a recent example, Prince George's Councilwoman Leslie Johnson was convicted of federal corruption charges. She was arrested in November 2010 and was able to take her oath of office in December. She was then founded guilty in June 2011 but would not be forced out of office until she was sentenced in October. She could have ended up collecting $28,000 in salary, not including other benefits. Under the proposal, she would have been removed from office in June 2011.
Arguments for voting "Against the Constitutional Amendment"
- The proposal could still require an Attorney General's opinion to determine which misdemeanor crimes would qualify for an elected official to be removed
- The proposal could still allow for a politician to hold an office while serving jail time
- Does not sufficiently cover all situations that may arise. In a recent example, Anne Arundel County Councilman Daryl Jones was found guilty of failing to file tax returns and was sentenced to five months of jail time in a Federal Prison. However, it was not a misdemeanor related to his official duties and he was not suspended or removed from office. Under the proposed amendment and under the current provision, he could have been allowed to continue to serve as an official.
How will you vote on this question? Tell us in comments.