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Anne Arundel Council to delay consideration of rules for ousting elected officials

Measure would create way to remove council member, tweak rules for ousting executive

By Andrea F. Siegel, The Baltimore Sun

10:15 PM EDT, July 2, 2012

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With a technical question arising over a word in the proposals, Anne Arundel County Council members delayed consideration late Monday night on new rules for ousting elected officials from office.

The measures, if approved by the council, would be among more than a dozen referendums that may come before county voters in November.

One proposal, designed to create regulations for removing a council member, was proposed just before Severn Democrat Daryl Jones completed a five-month federal prison term for failing to file a tax return.

It also came just before Maryland's highest court agreed to hear Jones' challenge to having been thrown off the County Council. With no provision for removing a member in place, the council had ousted Jones from office because the prison term meant he wouldn't be living in his district.

With County Executive John R. Leopold fighting criminal charges that he used his police security detail for personal and political gain, the council also is considering tweaking existing provisions for removing a county executive to mirror those for council members.

Both measures would allow for the removal of officials who are found guilty of a felony or certain other crimes, and it was the precise wording — a judgment or a conviction — that came under question, with the county attorney having made one suggestion and his deputy another.

Council Chairman Derek Fink said he expected the question over the language would be straightened out in time for the next council meeting. Most council members had sponsored the proposed charter changes.

In a measure that will go before voters, the council voted 5-2 to give themselves the option of taking the month of August off.

Seven more charter changes were introduced Monday night, including one aimed at avoiding a repeat of the 108 rounds of voting that took place before the council voted to fill Jones' seat with Peter Smith. It would create provisions for the county executive to appoint a replacement if the council doesn't do so within 30 days of a vacancy's being created.

With the possibility of more than a dozen questions for county residents — in addition to presidential and other high-stakes contests, and statewide referendum questions — council members have started to wonder whether voters' eyes will glaze over when they get to the local part of the ballot and face so many referendums.

"There could potentially be a lot of these things. ... If we have 20 of these ballot questions on there, by the time people get to them, they're going to have a little bit of voter fatigue," Councilman Chris Trumbauer, an Annapolis Democrat, had said.

andrea.siegel@baltsun.com

Baltimore Sun reporter Erin Cox contributed to this article.

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