Felony Conviction Could Mean Ouster from County Council
Charter amendments introduced Monday could boot convicted felons.
A councilman convicted of a felony, or found to be unable to perform the duties of office, could be voted out of their County Council seat under a change to the county code introduced Monday.
The Council has started adopting changes recommended by the Charter Revision Commission, a group created each decade to identify concerns with rules on how the county government operates.
Nine changes to the charter were introduced to the Council Monday, including two that dealt with removing Council members from office. Until now, there has been no official way to deal with that issue.
Under the proposed charter revision, the office of a member of the County Council, or the county executive, may be declared vacant with a vote of five members of the Council if that person:
- Is not qualified for office based on the charter.
- Is convicted of a felony or crime of moral turpitude, or malfeasance in office.
- Fails or is unable to perform duties of office for 180 days.
The nine new charter revisions do not address how to resolve a Council vacancy. That issue was brought to the forefront in February when the Council failed to agree on a replacement for former Councilman Daryl Jones after 100 consecutive votes.
Jones pleaded guilty last year to failure to file federal taxes, a misdemeanor, and is serving five months in federal prison. He is due to be released on Thursday. His District 1 seat was declared vacant by the Council, and Peter Smith (D-1st District) was voted as his successor by a 4-2 vote in March.
A similarly worded charter revision would apply to the office of County Executive John R. Leopold, who is being investigated by the state on charges of using his police detail for political gain. His trial is set for September.
Other items in the county's charter also are being considered for revision:
- Limit Board of Appeals members to two consecutive terms.
- Require one member of the county Ethics Commission be a member of the bar association.
- Clarify that a bill passed by the County Council, but returned unsigned and without a statement of approval by the county executive, becomes law after 10 days.
- Provide for an August legislative recess, unless the Council votes to meet during that month
Charter amendments must be approved by voters in the general election in November, but they will only appear on the ballot if the Council gets five of its seven members to approve the revisions.
The Council is set to vote on the revisions at its next meeting, scheduled for 7 p.m. July 2.