Dixon could have stayed in office, kept pension

It would behoove the Baltimore Sun to either have a lawyer on staff, or a journalist with a law degree, who reviews what the paper publishes.

First, the prosecution did not secure any conviction against Mayor Sheila Dixon. She was given probation before judgment, which means that there is no conviction on her record as long as she completes the terms of her probation successfully.

Second, even if the mayor had been convicted (she was not), the Maryland Constitution is far from clear as to whether such a conviction would have resulted in her removal from office. Indeed, a legally accurate interpretation of the pertinent provision favored Mayor Dixon (which is what makes her attorneys' capitulation to a plea deal surprising, political considerations aside).

Where a public official is convicted of a misdemeanor during her term of office, that conviction must relate to her public duties and responsibilities. The term of office during which Ms. Dixon was on trial was as mayor. But the charges against her never concerned her public duties and responsibilities as mayor. And nowhere does this provision state that it applies to terms of office that have ended. A good attorney knows that where, as here, a provision is silent, a court may not assume something else. Therefore, the provision that could remove an official from office -- and deprive her of her pension -- was never implicated, even with a conviction.

Michael Kroopnick

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