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Dwyer stripped of committee assignment

Laws and LegislationDrunk DrivingPublic Officials

Del. Don Dwyer, who is now serving weekend jail time for his second alcohol-related offense, is now a man without a committee assignment.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch removed the Anne Arundel County Republican from the House Ways & Means Committee Friday and declined to give him a seat on another committee. It is perhaps the harshest punishment that can be imposed on a legislator short of expulsion.

Busch said he was doing so "to protect the integrity of the House of Delegates."

Dwyer was convicted of drunk driving in October and sentenced to 30 consecutive weekends in jail. That guilty finding followed a previous conviction in an August 2012 incident in which Dwyer was to have been operating a boat while under the influence at the time of a two-vessel crash that injured six people including Dwyer himself.

After the first conviction, Busch removed Dwyer from the Judiciary Committee, which considers drunk-driving legislation, and assigned him to the Ways & Means panel.

Aides to Busch said the speaker consulted with Minority Leader Nic Kipke of Anne Arundel County before taking the action. Kipke had previously called on Dwyer to resign. Dwyer refused and reiterated Thursday that he plans to continue to serve.

The speaker's action is the strongest signal yet that Dwyer's colleagues want to see him go. While Dwyer can continue to vote, introduce bills and speak on the floor, most of any legislaror's work is done in committee.

In a statement, Busch said Dwyer's actions "have reflected poorly on the House and, as Speaker, I feel it is important that there are consequences to those actions. I hope that Delegate Dwyer is finding help but we cannot allow the general public to lose confidence in the effectiveness of their leaders."

Dywer could not immediately be reached for comment, but his office released a statement:

"I recognize that as a result of my situation Speaker Busch finds himself in a very difficult position. I agree with the court that as an elected official I should be held to a higher standard of public conduct as a condition of my public office as should every elected official. I completely accept the Speaker’s disciplinary action to remove me from my standing committee. I look forward to continuing to serve as I have done in the past."

Dwyer promised constituents that he would "continue to review every piece of legislation" and keep up with the issues.

"I will be fully prepared to vote for or against legislation that comes before me on the House floor," Dwyer said.

One of the most conservative members of the House, before his legal troubles Dwyer was best known for his staunch opposition to expanded rights for gay Marylanders.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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