Examiner Local Editorial: P.G. Dems go from frying pan into fire

Opinion,Local Editorial

Prince George's County is trying to repair the damage done by the corruption convictions of former County Executive Jack Johnson and his wife, Leslie, a former county council member. So it didn't help the county's tattered reputation when former Del. Tiffany Alston, D-Prince George's, was convicted in June of using $800 in state funds to pay an employee of her private law firm. Alston was also charged with illegally using campaign funds to help pay for her wedding, but that charge was dropped as part of her plea bargain.

Alston received a one-year suspended jail sentence, and was ordered to pay $800 in restitution and perform 300 hours of community service. On Nov. 1, legal counsel Dan Friedman advised the Maryland General Assembly that Alston's conviction required her immediate removal from her legislative seat, from which she has been suspended since October. The next day, the 24-member Prince George's County Democratic Central Committee voted 12-10 to replace her with 2010 challenger Greg Hall for the two years remaining in her term. Unfortunately, the record of the person picked to be her replacement in Annapolis is even worse.

If Alston's misdemeanor conviction makes her unfit for the part-time, $43,500-a-year legislative position, Hall's much longer rap sheet is a problem. It's not just that the former president of the county's Young Democrats has been convicted of failure to obey traffic signals, driving with an expired vehicle registration and failure to properly restrain a child under the age of 16. Hall also admits that he faced much more serious drug and handgun possession charges in the 1990s. According to Maryland court records and contemporaneous news reports, he was charged with murder in 1992. A 13-year-old bystander was shot accidentally during what police characterized as a gunfight over a drug dispute between Hall and another man. Hall was jailed for 40 days and then charged instead with gun possession. The other man, who had shot the boy, received a 30-year prison sentence.

Candidates for delegate must submit resumes to the county party committee. Two committee members told The Washington Examiner that Hall's application did not include his criminal history, but neither would say whether the committee members were aware of it before the vote. Before Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley approves Hall's appointment to the legislature, Prince George's Democrats should first explain why, in a county with hundreds of thousands of law-abiding Democrats, they decided to replace one lawbreaker with another in Annapolis.

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