Anne Arundel County Councilman Peter Smith resigned Monday night, allowing his ousted predecessor, Daryl Jones, to return to office after a court ruling determined his removal had been improper.
"I do this for the sake of the institution and my whole-hearted belief in the judicial system. The legal system has spoken," said Smith, a Severn Democrat.
Smith had been appointed to the County Council in 2012 to replace Jones, who was kicked off the council when he served time in jail on a federal tax charge.
The Court of Appeals ruled in July that Jones should not have been removed. A Circuit Court judge followed last Friday with a ruling that the council bill approving his ouster was null and void.
Smith said throughout the legal challenges that he knew it was a possibility he could lose his seat, and said he would follow any order from the courts. In brief remarks Monday, he thanked his legislative aide, Linda Harris, his fellow council members and his constituents.
Choking up, he said, "I have tried to represent you in a manner that was honorable and transparent."
He then addressed Jones, who sat in the front row, and said, "Sir, the seat is yours."
The two embraced and spoke briefly. The audience of several dozen people gave Smith a standing ovation as he took a seat in the audience.
After a recess, the nameplate on the District 1 seat was changed and Jones took his position on the dais. He made brief remarks thanking Smith and apologizing for his actions, then said, "Mr. Chairman, let's get to work."
Jones, also a Severn Democrat, was elected in 2006 and re-elected in 2010. But in 2011 he acknowledged failing to file personal and business tax returns for several years and pleaded guilty to one count of failing to file a tax return. He served five months in a federal jail in South Carolina in 2012, and the remaining six members of the County Council voted unanimously to declare his seat vacant on the grounds he abandoned his home in the district.
Jones appealed to the courts, and the Court of Appeals ruled that he legally maintained a residence in the district even when he was in jail. The Court of Appeals sent the case back to the Circuit Court for a remedy, which led to retired Judge Arthur Ahalt's ruling Friday.
Though he's no longer an incumbent, Smith has launched a campaign to win the District 1 seat, which represents north county communities including Severn, Hanover, Linthicum and Brooklyn Park, in his own right in 2014.
On Monday, Smith said any decision other than to resign would not have been responsible. He hoped his resignation would be "a way to start the healing process."