Maryland Del. Donald H. Dwyer Jr., who has been spending his weekends in jail for incidents of drunken driving and boating, was stripped of his committee assignment Thursday by House Speaker Michael E. Busch.
“My job as Speaker is to protect the integrity of the institution of the House of Delegates,” Busch (D-Anne Arundel) said in a statement. “Delegate Dwyer’s actions have reflected poorly on the House, and as Speaker, I feel it is important that there are consequences to those actions.”
Dwyer (R-Anne Arundel) was removed from the Ways and Means Committee and is now the only member of the House without a committee post. He did not immediately return a call seeking comment, but his office released a statement.
“[A]s an elected official I should be held to a higher standard of public conduct as a condition of my public office as should every elected official,” Dwyer said in the statement. “I completely accept the Speaker’s disciplinary action to remove me from my standing committee.”
Thursday’s action came on the second day of Maryland’s annual 90-day legislative session . A year ago, Busch reassigned Dwyer from his long-time seat on the Judiciary Committee following charges that were filed in relation to a August 2012 boating collision that injured seven people, including a 5-year-old girl. Dwyer’s blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit at the time of the incident, according to police.
Prior to his final sentencing in that case, Dwyer pleaded guilty to driving a car under the influence in August after he was pulled over in Pasadena.
In October, a judge sentenced Dwyer to 30 days in each case. He is being allowed to serve his time on weekends. Dwyer was also ordered to continue his ongoing alcohol treatment.
Busch said in an interview that this was an unusual and “extraordinary action,” but one he felt was necessary given that Dwyer has been arrested twice and is serving time.
“That’s the extent of the action that I can take,” Busch said, adding that delegates could take additional action.
Some lawmakers have discussed introducing a resolution to expel Dwyer from the chamber, but nothing has been introduced yet. Dwyer, 55, has been a member of the House since 2003 and is considered one of its most conservative members. He staunchly opposed of same-sex marriage legislation.
House Minority Leader Nicholaus R. Kipke (R-Anne Arundel) said that Dwyer met in private with the House Republican caucus Thursday morning. Dwyer told the group that he regretted his actions and he apologized. But he also made clear that he’s not leaving.
“He is absolutely not resigning,” Kipke said. “And he is running for reelection.”
Kipke said that some members of the caucus expressed their unhappiness with Dwyer’s actions, but he would not recount specifics of those private comments. When asked if there would be additional sanctions taken against Dwyer, Kipke said: “I won’t speak directly to Delegate Dwyer’s status other than to say there are consequences for actions.”
House Republican leaders issued a brief statement on Thursday afternoon that said: “Delegate Dwyer is accepting the consequences of his actions. We will be working with Speaker Busch to address the impact on the legislative process as Session begins.”
At the time of his sentencing, Dwyer’s lawyer said the delegate took full responsibility for his actions and was continuing to work on his sobriety.
When Kipke was asked if he thought that Dwyer had addressed his drinking problem, he said, “I haven’t spent enough time with him to know that.”
Busch said, “I hope that Delegate Dwyer is finding help, but we cannot allow the general public to lose confidence in the effectiveness of their leaders.”