By Erin Cox, The Baltimore Sun
9:43 PM EST, November 19, 2012
In the wake of an accusation he "accosted" a voter, Anne Arundel County Councilman John Grasso on Monday apologized to people who watched him "draw a line in the sand."
Grasso gave a three-minute speech at the start of Monday night's council meeting apologizing to witnesses of a confrontation between himself and a voter who later complained to elections officials that the councilman berated him and called him an idiot while his kids stood nearby. It was one of several complaints elections officials said they received about Grasso's behavior outside a Glen Burnie early voting center in October.
"I am extremely sorry for the folks who had to watch this display between myself and a constituent," Grasso said. "It is not something I chose to do. But I also hope that those people appreciate that I stood up for my rights."
Grasso, a Republican, disputes the account that he berated a passive voter, and has said he was defending himself against a constituent who started the conflict with a rude comment. Grasso said he muttered the "idiot" remark under his breath and didn't mean for the children to hear.
Monday night, Grasso said that although elected officials are held to a higher standard of conduct, they have not waived their right to freedom of speech and it would have dishonored veterans if he had remained quiet when bullied.
"To me, by walking away from that situation, I was basically slapping our vets in the face [by implying] that you have given me that right and I have chosen not to take it," Grasso said.
Another councilman had threatened repercussions in the absence of an apology to Lorne Young of Glen Burnie, whose written complaint was the only one sent to the County Council.
Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Democrat from Crownsville, last week urged his colleagues in an email to vote against a coming resolution that elevates Grasso to a leadership position unless an apology were issued.
Monday, Benoit said he was satisfied by Grasso's apology to witnesses. Grasso said he apologized because "it was the right thing to do," not to placate Benoit.
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