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GOP committee to recommend three names for vacant delegate seat

The Carroll County Republican Central Committee voted to recommend three names to fill the vacant delegate seat in District 5, just hours after a Carroll County Circuit Court judge denied a request for a temporary restraining order that would have prohibited the committee from doing so.

Judge Fred S. Hecker wrote in his opinion that in all injunctive cases, whether temporary restraining orders or preliminary injunctions, the court must consider several factors, including the likelihood that the plaintiffs will succeed based on the merits of the case as well as whether immediate, substantial and irreparable harm would result if the order is not issued.

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Hecker said he does not believe that irreparable harm would befall the plaintiffs if the temporary restraining order was not granted, he wrote.

Carroll County Republican Central Committee members Kathy Fuller, Amy Gilford and Melissa Caudill, who originally filed the lawsuit Feb. 2, have appealed the court's decision to the Court of Special Appeals of Maryland.

The plaintiffs are arguing that the Maryland Constitution requires one name be submitted by the central committee to the governor for any vacancies, but the governor's office has requested three names for each vacancy.

Article 3, Section 13 of the Maryland Constitution, says "the Governor shall appoint a person to fill such vacancy from a person whose name shall be submitted to him in writing … by the Central Committee of the political party."

In the process of determining the possibility of irreparable harm befalling the plaintiffs, Hecker also had to consider the likelihood they would succeed on the merits, he wrote. His opinion is that there are several interpretations to the article, one being the central committee may submit several names and another being it is ultimately up to the governor to appoint someone to the vacant position

During a special meeting of the central committee Thursday, Gilford introduced a motion to recommend just one name, which was seconded by Fuller. Their argument is the Carroll committee is the only such committee in the state that has complied with the governor's request for multiple names. Washington, Frederick and Anne Arundel counties have thus far denied the governor's request, Fuller said.

The motion did not carry, going down in a 5-4 vote.

Karen Leatherwood, a member of the central committee, then introduced a motion to submit three names, which was amended to include the provision that if six of the members selected the same applicant as their first choice, the committee would submit that one name only.

The motion passed by a vote of 5-4.

Fuller and Gilford said they will continue to participate in the process but are doing so "under duress." Jim Reter, member of the central committee, said the second motion constitutes an illegal process.

Fuller asked what recourse she or others on the central committee might have if they were not happy with the outcome of the vote. Matt Helminiak, a central committee member, said "you can sue."

The delegate seat, one of three representing District 5 in Carroll County, was vacated Feb. 2 when now Sen. Justin Ready accepted Gov. Larry Hogan's appointment as former Sen. Joe Getty's replacement.

The committee initially recommended only former County Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier to fill Getty's seat. Later, after public outcry and at the prompting of officials from the governor's Appointments Office to submit three names, the central committee moved to also recommend Ready and Dave Wallace. Fuller, Gilford and Caudill filed a lawsuit Feb. 2 in Carroll County Circuit Court seeking a temporary restraining order to keep Ready or Wallace from being named to the Senate seat.

They then amended the lawsuit Feb. 10 and dismissed Wallace from the list of defendants. The appeal to the Court of Special Appeals has now dismissed Ready as well.

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Ready said while he would have preferred legal action hadn't taken place, this case has not distracted him from his duties as a senator.

"My focus, since being sworn in, is to do the job, which is to make sure my constituents are represented," Ready said. "I'm working to make sure the state is a place where businesses can grow and families can thrive."

The committee has begun accepting applications for the seat and have set a Monday deadline. Questionnaires will be sent to all applicants and must be returned by Feb. 21. The central committee members will then review the applications and questionnaires before selecting five finalists each.

Once the finalists votes are tallied, the top 10 will be interviewed during an open meeting Feb. 26. Immediately following the interviews, the members will cast secret ballots to recommend three names for the governor to choose from. A location for the meeting has yet to be identified.

The names of the applicants and their answers to the questionnaire will be made public prior to the Feb. 26 meeting.

Reach staff writer Wiley Hayes at 410-857-3315 or wiley.hayes@carrollcountytimes.com.

The delegate seat, one of three representing District 5 in Carroll County, was vacated Feb. 2 when Sen. Justin Ready accepted Gov. Larry Hogan's appointment as former Sen. Joe Getty's replacement.

Potential conflict of interest

At least one member of the Carroll County Republican Central Committee has applied for the vacant delegate seat in District 5, creating what several members identify as a conflict of interest.

Don Hoffman, a member of the central committee, confirmed he has applied for the delegate seat during a meeting Thursday.

Kathy Fuller, another member of the central committee, said Hoffman should recuse himself from the upcoming vote to recommend three names to the governor because it constituted a clear conflict of interest. Hoffman said he would not recuse himself.

Fuller reminded the central committee that when former Del. Carmen Amedori vacated her seat in District 5A to serve a six-year term on the Maryland Parole Commission in 2004, Jim Reter, a current member of the central committee who was a member of the committee in 2004, applied for the vacancy and recused himself from the vote.

Gilford, a member of the central committee, agreed with Fuller and said she does not doubt Hoffman would select the best individuals for the job but asserted that "it presents a huge conflict of interest."

Hoffman said he thought about applying for the vacant delegate seat when Ready first applied for the Senate seat in District 5. He said he ultimately applied because he wanted to ensure that the central committee had at least one qualified applicant to recommend.

"My main concern was that there wouldn't be a good group of applicants we would have to pick from," Hoffman said.

Matt Helminiak, a central committee member, addressed Gilford and said that during the process to recommend a replacement for Getty, there was a conflict of interest for at least one central committee member but "you didn't have a problem with that."

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The central committee originally voted 5-4 to recommend former Commissioner Robin Bartlett Frazier to replace Getty in the Senate. Gilford is a former employee of Frazier.

Fuller said her main concern was that Hoffman's role as a committee member has given him foreknowledge of the questionnaire that will be given to each applicant to complete and that he is familiar with the process.

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