At the recommendation of the legislature’s Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, Prince George’s Sen. Ulysses Currie (D), for instance, was censured by his colleagues in February for failing to disclose consulting fees he received from a grocery chain he was advocating for. A jury had earlier acquitted Currie of federal bribery, corruption and extortion charges.
Negotiations continued Wednesday between state prosecutors and attorneys for Prince George’s Del. Tiffany Alston (D), who has been charged with misusing campaign money to help pay for her wedding.
Both sides had told an Anne Arundel County judge last week that they had worked out a deal that would allow Alston to avoid a trial on the wedding expenses and to resolve an earlier case. Alston was found guilty in June of stealing $800 from the General Assembly to pay an employee of her private law firm.
But the tentative agreement fell apart, Alston’s lawyer said this week because the first-term legislator was not prepared to enter into a deal. Attorney J. Wyndal Gordon told reporters Wednesday that the two sides were stuck on whether Alston would have to resign from office.
The on-again, off-again private talks proceeded in the hallway outside a courtroom in Annapolis, where a hearing had been set to discuss the previous theft case. But after more than two hours of negotiations, the parties appeared no closer to a deal.
At one point, Judge Paul Harris chastised the parties for what he called “game playing.”
“I was told the case was settled,” he said. “This case is obviously not settled.”
Alston’s attorney said outside the courtroom that negotiations with Maryland State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt included discussion of “leaving it to the House of Delegates to decide her future.”
Maryland’s Constitution automatically removes public officials from office once a conviction for such a crime becomes final at the time of sentencing. But there is a separate legislative ethics process that allows lawmakers to judge their fellow members.
In Alston’s case, it would be highly unusual for the legislature to short-circuit the judicial process and such a scenario would require the cooperation of the judge, the House leadership and the state prosecutor.
Davitt declined to comment on the specifics of the ongoing talks. Alston’s trial on the wedding charges is set to begin Oct. 9, unless an agreement is reached before then.
On Wednesday evening, House Speaker Michael Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said through a spokeswoman:“We will wait for the criminal justice process to conclude.”