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Judge hears arguments over Arundel Council seat

Parties argue over whether council had authority to remove Jones when he was sentenced to prison

By Nicole Fuller, The Baltimore Sun

11:00 PM EDT, March 14, 2012

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Lawyers on both sides of the legal fight over a vacant Anne Arundel County Council seat argued Wednesday in county Circuit Court about whether the council had the authority to remove a member who was sentenced to prison.

Former Councilman Daryl D. Jones, a Democrat from Severn, has sued the county in an attempt to hold onto his seat representing District 1. The County Council in January unanimously voted to vacate Jones' seat when he began serving a five-month federal prison sentence.

Retired Prince George's County Judge Arthur M. Monty Ahalt, who has been assigned to decide the case, presided over the hour-long hearing. Lawyers on both sides have asked for summary judgment in the case.

Linda M. Schuett, an attorney representing Jones, argued that her client was permanently domiciled in his district, and therefore the council's action to vacate his seat was illegal.

David A. Plymyer, the deputy county attorney, said the council has the authority to make laws governing qualifications for members to retain office.

Although the council has vacated Jones' seat, it has failed to appoint a replacement after more than 100 rounds of voting. The council is deadlocked 3-3 between two candidates – Peter I. Smith, a Marine Reservist from Severn, and Michael J. Wagner, a business owner from Ferndale. The council is scheduled to meet Monday and continue voting on a replacement.

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