www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/sun-investigates/bal-law-likely-wont-force-dwyer-from-office-20130824,0,4711891.story

baltimoresun.com

Law likely won't force Dwyer from office

By John Fritze and Michael Dresser

The Baltimore Sun

6:00 AM EDT, August 26, 2013

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Fellow lawmakers have called on Del. Don Dwyer Jr. to resign after his drunken-driving arrest Tuesday, but there is little in Maryland law to force that outcome, a review of the state’s statutes on removal from office shows.

Dwyer, a three-term Anne Arundel County Republican, was arrested early Tuesday after failing a field sobriety test along Route 100. The incident occurred almost exactly a year after he was involved in a boating accident that seriously injured six others. He had pleaded guilty to operating the boat while drunk.

State voters approved a constitutional amendment last year to automatically suspend elected officials from office once they are found guilty of a felony or certain misdemeanors related to their official duties. If they remain guilty after exhausting the appeals process, they are permanently removed.

Tiffany Alston, a former Democratic delegate from Prince George’s County, was removed from office last fall after she was convicted of misconduct in office — a crime that officials determined related directly to her official duties.

But DUI, like boating while drunk, is a misdemeanor that would not be construed as having to do with service in office, according to the state attorney general’s office.

The General Assembly has broad discretion to discipline its members but can expel only with a two-thirds vote of the full membership of the chamber in question. Any disciplinary action would begin with the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, a body that usually — though not always — waits for the criminal-justice process to run its course.

Furthermore, it’s not clear that there is any political appetite to begin that process in Dwyer’s case. House Speaker Michael E. Busch, an Annapolis Democrat, criticized Dwyer’s conduct as “unbecoming of a legislator” but said his future in the legislature “will be decided by his own conscience … or, ultimately, by the voters.”