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O'Malley wants different appointee for P.G. House seat

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Local,Maryland,Matt Connolly

Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said Wednesday that he wants a new choice to replace former Del. Tiffany Alston, who was removed from the House of Delegates after she admitted to misusing public funds.

The Prince George's County Democratic Central Committee has submitted Gregory Hall's name to the governor for appointment. In a letter last week, O'Malley asked the committee to withdraw Hall's name until O'Malley was sure Alston would have to vacate her seat. Hall has come under fire for his criminal record, including a gun charge conviction and dropped murder and drug charges -- all from 20 years ago.

Maryland Attorney General Douglas Gansler affirmed the legality of Alston's removal in a formal opinion sent to the governor Tuesday. "We conclude that Ms. Alston was removed from office, by operation of law, by virtue of her conviction for official misconduct and her waiver of her rights of appeal," Gansler wrote in the opinion.

Though Hall spoke freely of his past in the lead-up to his potential appointment, O'Malley said Wednesday he still wants the Central Committee to present alternatives.

"The governor believes that there are plenty of people in Prince George's County that he would be more than happy to appoint," said O'Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory.

The Central Committee voted not to withdraw Hall's name Tuesday night after getting word of the attorney general's formal opinion. Hall filed a court order before the vote saying that the committee would need to show cause if it rescinded its endorsement.

"I don't know what the basis is for asking for other names," said Walter Green, Hall's attorney. "It seems to me that it is the governor's constitutional duty right now to appoint Greg Hall."

Alston's seat was vacated after she was convicted in June of misdemeanor theft for using $800 in state money to pay an employee of her law office and pleaded no contest last month to attempting to use more than $3,500 in campaign funds to pay for wedding expenses.

Alston agreed to a plea deal in October that left her with one finding of guilt, which Judge Paul Harris modified to probation before judgment once she completed the terms of her probation. Alston had been hoping the change would allow her to keep her seat in Annapolis.

According to Gansler's opinion, though, the court's judgment must be "reversed or overturned" for the removal to be lifted. Alston defeated Hall by 322 votes to win her House seat in 2010.

mconnolly@washingtonexaminer.com

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