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Legal Opinion: Council Members Not Eligible for Executive Appointment

The Anne Arundel County Attorney received an opinion that the county's charter disqualifies council members from being appointed county executive.

In the wake of former County Executive John Leopold's resignation, two Anne Arundel County Council members expressed interest in a bid for the seat, but attorneys familiar with charter legislation say the county's charter makes the council members ineligible.

After council members John Grasso (R–District 2) and Jerry Walker (R–District 7) expressed interest in putting their name in the running, County Attorney John Hodgson requested an opinion on behalf of the county from Rosenberg, Martin Greenberg LLP, as to whether they are eligible to be appointed to the office.

Andrew H. Baida, an attorney for the law firm, cited several county and state rulings that suggest this section of the county charter makes current council members ineligible:

From Section 202(b): "… After qualifying as such, no member of the County Council, notwithstanding the fact that he may thereafter resign, shall during the whole period of time for which he was elected be eligible for appointment to any County office, position or employment carrying compensation."

Baida explained in a letter to the county attorney Thursday, "It is in my opinion that no member of the county council is eligible for appointment to fill the current county executive vacancy."

Grasso, who has also expressed intentions to run for county executive in 2014, said he decided not to put his name in Thursday morning before receiving the opinion from the attorneys.

"I had already made the decision I wasn't going to run—that was a given earlier today," Grasso said.

He put some of the weight of that decision on his fellow council members.

"I wasn't able to get the support of my colleagues," he said. "I guess I'm just not political enough to get the support."

The council is set to vote on the new executive on Feb. 21.

According to recent reports, a possible bid for the county executive seat could come from former First Lady of Maryland Kendel Ehrlich.

Beth Jones, spokesperson for the county council, said Ehrlich is not one of the four applicants, as of 4 p.m. Thursday. Jones says she expects most of the bids to come in by the deadline on Friday.

Jeff Andrade February 14, 2013 at 09:51 PM
Can't see why they needed an outside opinion as the Charter is pretty clear on its face that Council members are ineligible for appointment to County positions during the term they were elected to (or appointed to fill out), even if they resign. Pity current Council members don't know what's in the County Charter. Guess that's why they call it blind ambition.
Dave February 15, 2013 at 01:43 AM
I'm with Jeff - why couldn't the AA County Attorney's office answer this question? Lawyering in Maryland is a good gig I guess...
paul kriewald February 15, 2013 at 11:58 AM
Glad to hear it!
JMoynihan February 15, 2013 at 12:50 PM
I'm quite interested to see how things go down during the 2014 County Executive election. What's the ruling on these Council Members and their availability to run in 2014?
Jeff Andrade February 15, 2013 at 04:35 PM
JM, there's nothing to bar any of the current Council members from standing for election to the County Executive post in 2014. However, as a practical matter, it is likely to be a wide open field in both party primaries, and with the exception of Mr. Benoit, who has said he is not running for County Exec in 2014, all of them are in their first term and not yet term-limited. Thus, if any of them run in 2014, they are giving up the incumbency advantage of their Council seat, for something that is not as sure of a thing.
Jeff Andrade February 15, 2013 at 05:21 PM
Dave, I hadn't seen this article in the Broadneck Patch http://broadneck.patch.com/articles/as-deadline-looms-no-candidates-have-filed-for-executive-race before I commented. Nothwithstanding the clear language of the Charter, Patch reported that Mr. Walker read the law differently than the County Attorney and Walker was quoted as saying "I don’t see that the language applies here, There’s certainly nothing that says a council member can’t run for executive.". Further, based on some of the comments on that article, it looks like it may have been the case that an outside opinion was requested by one or more Council members, which would be unfortunate if that was the case. Thankfully, we won't have any of our current Council members as our new County Executive.
Brian Hooks (Editor) February 15, 2013 at 06:55 PM
As long as they aren't council members for the 2014 term, they can run. Former council members are allowed to run, so long as they meet all of the other criteria, JMo
Maryellen Brady February 16, 2013 at 06:34 AM
I think this makes a good case for keeping John Hammond on and appointing him the County Executive. No one knows the County's finances better than John, He knows government and he wont have to be "broken into" the job. John has always been aware of his position as a "public servant" and has never done anything to cloud his dedication to duty.
Maribeth Kalinich February 16, 2013 at 07:04 AM
Does Kendel Ehrlich live in Anne Arundel County? I thought they were somewhere up in Baltimore?
paul kriewald February 16, 2013 at 12:10 PM
They live across from Annapolis Mall.

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