Pr. George’s lawmaker will not be reinstated, legislature’s lawyer says


Tiffany Alston was removed from the House of Delegates last month after being sentenced for misconduct in office. (Mark Gail/For The Washington Post)
November 1, 2012

Tiffany Alston, a Prince George’s lawmaker suspended from public office last month, cannot rejoin the General Assembly as she hoped, an attorney for the Maryland legislature said Thursday.

The determination about Alston’s future comes as county Democrats are poised to select her replacement Friday.

Alston, a Democrat, was removed from the House of Delegates on Oct. 9 after she was sentenced for misconduct in office. The first-term legislator had intended to reclaim her seat after she completed hundreds of hours of court-ordered community service and paid restitution to the General Assembly.

But in a letter to House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Anne Arundel) on Thursday, a lawyer for the General Assembly said he considers Alston “permanently removed from elective office.”

“No subsequent modification of her sentence by the trial court can result in her restoration to office during this term,” wrote Dan Friedman, counsel to the General Assembly, expanding on his October opinion. A spokeswoman for Busch said the speaker would follow Friedman’s advice.

The letter was sent to Alston late Thursday. She did not immediately return phone calls seeking comment.

Alston had been preparing to return to Anne Arundel County Circuit Court on Monday to try to get her sentence modified in the hopes of making a comeback in Annapolis.

Separately, Prince George’s County’s 24-member Democratic Central Committee is scheduled to nominate Alston’s successor on Friday. Eight candidates — including committee chairman Terry L. Speigner and businessman Greg Hall, who ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2010 — have applied for the part-time position to represent the midcounty 24th District.

In June, Alston was found guilty of misconduct in office and of stealing $800 from the General Assembly to pay an employee of her law firm. She struck a last-minute deal with Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt to avoid a trial on separate charges of using campaign money to pay for some of her wedding expenses.

Judge Paul F. Harris gave Alston a suspended jail sentence of one year in the misconduct case and ordered her to complete community service and pay restitution. Harris left open the possibility of expunging the finding of guilt if Alston met her obligation to the court.

Alston said this week that she was on track to complete the required 300 hours of volunteer work in the 22 days since her sentencing, a pace that would have required her to work longer than 13-hour days, including weekends.

Under Maryland’s constitution, an elected official is automatically suspended from office in such a case at the time of sentencing. If a conviction is reversed or overturned, the official is reinstated.

Friedman did not address the question of whether Alston could be reinstated in his initial letter to Busch last month. But in his 10-page letter Thursday, Friedman wrote that Alston gave up her right to appeal as part of her plea agreement and that her conviction could no longer be reversed or overturned. Friedman noted that nothing would prevent Alston from running for office again in 2014.

Alston, 35, joined the General Assembly in 2010. An attorney, she was among the elementary school students in Seat Pleasant in the 1980s to receive college tuition help from the late Washington sports team owner Abe Pollin.

But she has experienced a series of recent setbacks. In September, the state’s highest court indefinitely suspended her law license because of complaints from a client.

Ann covers legal affairs in the District and Maryland for the Washington Post. Ann previously covered state government and politics in California, New Hampshire and Maryland. She joined the Post in 2005.
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