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Arundel council votes to remove Jones as jail term looms

Councilman's lawyer has said she plans to challenge move

By Nicole Fuller, The Baltimore Sun

10:14 PM EST, January 17, 2012

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The Anne Arundel County Council voted unanimously Tuesday to remove member Daryl D. Jones from his seat when he reports to federal prison next week.

The Council voted 6-0, with Jones recusing himself, to declare his position vacant when he begins serving his prison term on Jan. 23. The move allows the council to begin the process of appointing a replacement for Jones, a Severn Democrat, though the action is likely to be challenged in court.

Jones' ouster would mark the first time that the council has removed a sitting council member.

"I have appreciated over the last five years the support that my district has given me, particularly as I've gone through a very difficult time recently," Jones told the council before he recused himself, calling the bill "legislation against me personally."

Jones added, "I will continue to fight and be certain that you're not disenfranchised through this process."

Councilman Jamie Benoit, a Crownsville Democrat who introduced the emergency ordinance in December, said he's been dismayed by the circumstances surrounding the bill.

"To say it represents a low in my time here is an understatement," he said

Councilman John J. Grasso, a Republican from Glen Burnie, had introduced a similar resolution but withdrew it after the vote to approve Benoit's measure.

The council has 30 days from when Jones reports to prison to appoint a replacement, though Jones' attorney is expected to challenge the decision in court. The lawyer, Linda M. Schuett, a former county attorney, did not respond to a call seeking comment.

Jones is set to report next Monday to the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Williamsburg, a medium-security facility in South Carolina.

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold declined through his spokesman to comment.

Jones pleaded guilty in August to a single misdemeanor charge of failing to file nearly three dozen personal and business tax returns over a six-year period. He was sentenced in November to five months in federal prison, one year of probation and six months' home detention.

Even as some of his council colleagues called for his resignation following his sentencing, Jones, a defense attorney in private practice, has fought quietly to keep his job.

While the county charter does not expressly call for the dismissal of a council member upon conviction for a crime or during incarceration, County Attorney Jonathan A. Hodgson advised the council days after his sentencing that it could declare Jones' seat vacant when he reports to prison.

Jones' attorney filed a temporary restraining order in county Circuit Court earlier this month, hoping to prevent the council from voting on the pending legislation. The judge ruled against Jones, saying his request was premature because the council had not yet voted. His attorney said at that time that she would likely refile the same motion if the council voted to remove Jones.

Jones grew up in Anne Arundel County. He graduated in 1987 from the University of Maryland, College Park and earned his law degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law in 1992, the same year he was admitted to the Maryland Bar.

He first got involved in politics as a law student, becoming a member in 1990 of the county's Democratic Central Committee, where he also was chairman. He was elected to the council in 2006 and easily won re-election in 2010.

About a handful of county residents testified in support of the bill. David Starr, 31, of Linthicum, urged the council to vote in favor of it.

"I hope that you'll do the appropriate thing that he's been unwilling to do and declare his seat vacant," said Starr. "He's … failed to file his taxes. … It reflects very poorly on us."

nicole.fuller@baltsun.com

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