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Arundel council to consider fate of colleague Daryl Jones

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The councilman who has sponsored legislation that would allow the County Council to replace Daryl D. Jones when he reports to prison later this month is predicting the move will sail through when the panel meets Tuesday.

Councilman John J. Grasso, who introduced a resolution that would declare Jones' council seat vacant, said he expects passage for either his resolution or a similar measure — an outcome that would almost certainly send the issue to court.

"It's over with," said Grasso, a Glen Burnie Republican who has pushed for Jones to resign. "If it doesn't pass, it will shock the daylights out of me."

Jones, a Severn Democrat, is scheduled to report to prison Jan. 23 to serve a five-month sentence on a misdemeanor count of failing to file a tax return. He failed to file nearly three dozen personal and business tax returns over a six-year period, which he said was a result of dealing with his mother's illness and death.

It's unclear whether Jones will recuse himself when the seven-member council votes on the legislation. The council will vote first on an emergency ordinance introduced by fellow Democratic Councilman Jamie Benoit. The ordinance requires five votes for passage. If the council does not pass Benoit's bill, it will vote on a similar resolution introduced by Grasso, which needs only four votes.

Jones has refused to resign, saying recently that his constituents wanted him to retain his seat, and if the council were tasked with choosing his replacement, the process would be "politicized."

Jones' attorney, Linda M. Schuett, filed a request for a restraining order in county Circuit Court this month in an attempt to prevent the council from voting on the legislation. A judge dismissed the motion, saying the filing was premature because Jones had not yet been removed.

Schuett has said that if the council passes either bill, she intends to immediately refile the motion. She did not respond to a message seeking comment Thursday. Jones also did not return a message seeking comment.

Although the county charter does not expressly address what happens if a council member is convicted of a crime or imprisoned, County Attorney Jonathan A. Hodgson advised the council that it could remove Jones once he starts serving his sentence.

Benoit, of Crownsville, said he had not quizzed his colleagues to gauge support for his bill, and he would not say how he would vote.

"I have never sponsored a bill and not voted for it," said Benoit, who is a friend of Jones'. "I'm not being coy. This is not something I really want to talk about. For me, more than anything else, there's a lot of personal relationships bound up in it. I'm doing what I think is the right thing, having a debate about it, putting it in the court, and we'll get a judicial decision about it in the next month or so."

Grasso believes the council's four Republicans will vote for either measure. Council Chairman Derek Fink and Councilman Richard B. "Dick" Ladd have both said Jones should resign. Councilman Jerry Walker did not respond to a message seeking comment.

Councilman Chris Trumbauer, a Democrat from Annapolis, also did not respond to a message seeking comment.

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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