A Prince George’s County lawmaker pleaded no contest Tuesday to charges that she misused campaign funds for personal expenditures, including an attempt to use more than $3,500 in campaign funds to pay for wedding expenses.
The plea was part of a deal that settled two separate cases against Del. Tiffany Alston. But what was not clear in the wake of the agreement was whether Alston will be able to keep her seat in the Maryland House of Delegates.
Under state law, an elected official found guilty of a felony or misdemeanor tied to his or her job is suspended and then removed from office if the conviction is finalized. A proposed constitutional amendment that would remove a lawmaker as soon as a guilty verdict is rendered will be on the ballot in Maryland this November.
Kristin Jones, chief of staff for House Speaker Michael Busch, said the speaker’s office is aware of the plea agreement and is seeking clarification from the attorney general’s office before taking any action.
But Alston’s attorney insisted his client planned to keep her seat in Annapolis.
“We see this as a victory for Ms. Alston,” said Raouf Abdullah, an attorney for Alston. “Ms. Alston regrets the matter having occurred but believes this outcome reflects that the allegations were not supported by strong evidence.”
He added, “What happened today will not affect her ability to serve her constituents. Her constituents want her to remain in her position.”
Alston can try to get her misconduct in office sentence modified once she completes the conditions of her probation, according to a release from State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt. Abdullah said he expects her lone remaining guilty finding to be wiped out in the next 30 days.
In June, a jury found her guilty of misdemeanor theft and misconduct in office for using $800 in state money to pay an employee of her law office.
The agreement removes the earlier guilty finding of theft and allows Alston to avoid a second trial. For her misconduct in office conviction, Judge Paul Harris handed down a suspended sentence of one year in jail and placed her on three years’ probation. Alston must also perform 300 hours of community service and pay $800 in restitution to the General Assembly.