Judge Takes Council Vacancy Issue Under Advisement
An Anne Arundel County Circuit Court judge said he would issue his written opinion on the matter at a later date.
The question of Anne Arundel County's District 1 representation moved into court on Wednesday, but a decision may take some time.
The Anne Arundel County Council passed a bill in January that declared the District 1 seat vacant saying that former Councilman Daryl Jones would be living outside of his district while serving a prison sentence in South Carolina. Jones was convicted in November for failing to file tax returns and began serving his five-month sentence on Jan. 23.
The validity of that bill is now under consideration by Judge Arthur Ahalt. At the end of Wednesday's hearing in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court, Ahalt said he would issue his written opinion at a later date, but did not specify when that might be, County Attorney Jonathan Hodgson said.
Jones, the plaintiff in this case, has said he would like to retain his seat on the council for when he finishes his sentence. His attorney, Linda Schuett, a former county attorney, said the council acted illegally when it vacated Jones' seat with Bill 85-11.
Hodgson said he's confident the council is in the right, noting that the county's charter requires council members to live in the district they represent.
"We countered by saying that the council acted in proper authority," Hodgson said. "And we remain confident that the council acted properly in enacting Bill 85-11."
County Councilman John Grasso (R-2nd District) told Patch he thinks the decision should be easy for the judge.
"I think that any judge that [allows Jones back on the council] needs a checkup from the neck up," Grasso said. "I think the decision should be based on the legal values and moral issues."
The County Council is scheduled to meet Monday for another chance to vote on Jones' successor. They have been unable to come to an agreement on the matter after more than 100 votes split 3-3 between Peter Smith and Mike Wagner.
Hodgson warned the council in a letter dated March 7 that their failure to meet a 30-day deadline to fill the vacancy undermines their position in court, as first reported by The Baltimore Sun.
Glen Burnie Patch editor Maya T. Prabhu also contributed to this article.
CORRECTION: An earlier edition of this article incorrectly stated that Jones was convicted of tax evasion. He was convicted of failing to file tax returns. Patch regrets the error.