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Alston would face legislative ethics review if she returns to Md. House, speaker says

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If Tiffany Alston were reinstated by a court as a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, she would still face an uncertain future in the chamber.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said Friday that the return of the former Prince George’s County delegate would trigger a review by a legislative ethics committee that could recommend a punishment up to and including expulsion.

It would ultimately be up to the full House to decide what to about Alston, who was found guilty in June on charges of stealing $800 from the General Assembly to pay an employee of her law firm.

In an interview, Busch was careful not to predict what actions the ethics committee or the full House might take, saying: “I don’t want to speculate on any of that.”

A Prince George’s judge has agreed to hear arguments Tuesday related to Alston’s automatic removal from the General Assembly following her sentencing, as well as to a dispute over the appointment of her replacement.

Alston has argued that she should have been able to keep her seat after an Anne Arundel County judge this month modified her sentence to probation before judgment, essentially wiping out her conviction on a remaining charge of misconduct in office.

Prior to her sentencing, lawyers for Alston suggested that they would be comfortable with letting her colleagues decide whether she should continue to serve.

J. Wyndal Gordon, an Alston attorney, said Friday that the delegate’s case should have been handled by the ethics committee rather a court in the first place.

Gordon said Alston enjoys “some support from her colleagues” but would not predict how a vote to expel her would turn out at this point. “I don’t know what the climate of the General Assembly is today,” Gordon said.

Under the state Constitution, a two-thirds vote of the House is required to expel a member.

Busch said the ethics process Alston would face would be similar to that endured this year by Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George’s). After conducting a review, the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics recommended a censure of Currie, which the Senate carried out in February.

The ethics action on Currie followed his acquittal on federal bribery and corruption charges stemming from $245,000 he received in consulting payments over five years from Shoppers Food Warehouse. Prosecutors accused Currie of seeking to use his Senate office to improperly benefit the chain.

Though he was found not guilty in court, Currie’s colleagues determined that he had committed several ethical lapses, though none worthy of expulsion.

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