December 9, 2011

Benoit challenges legal opinion on Jones' seat

Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit is challenging a legal opinion issued by the county attorney on the political future of fellow Councilman Daryl D. Jones, who is headed to federal prison next month.

In a five-page memo to the county’s Office of Law, Benoit, a Democrat, questioned County Attorney Jonathan A. Hodgson’s Dec. 1 legal opinion. Hodgson stated that the council can replace Jones when he begins serving a five-month federal prison sentence on Jan. 23, on a single count of failing to file a tax return, because he will be living outside of his councilmanic district during his prison stint.

The county charter does not require a council member convicted of a crime or sentenced to prison. But Hodgson said once Jones, a second-term Democrat from Severn, is incarcerated, the council can declare his seat vacated by passing a resolution, then begin the process of choosing a successor. The council has 30 days from the date of the vacancy to choose a replacement, who must live in the district and be of the same party.

“By my read, if Mr. Jones does not resign and intends to live in the councilmanic district upon his return in a few months, his seat has not been vacated when he reports to prison,” Benoit wrote. The Crownsville Democrat and attorney asked the county law office to provide a more substantive legal opinion. Benoit has said he has no opinion on whether Jones should resign.

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Posted by Nicole Fuller at 11:51 AM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Anne Arundel County

October 26, 2011

Rural officials meet, try to stop Plan Maryland

A group of state, county and local politicians from Maryland’s rural areas plan to meet Thursday in Annapolis to strategize about how to stop Gov. Martin O’Malley from implementing Plan Maryland, a statewide development policy that is expected to become policy later this fall.

State Sen. E.J. Pipkin, who represents Caroline, Cecil, Kent and Queen Anne’s counties, is organizing the meeting.

“The governor calls Plan Maryland smart growth. But what it amounts to is no growth in the rural portions of the state,” he said in a statement.

Pipkin introduced legislation earlier this month during the special session on redistricting that would require General Assembly approval of Plan Maryland, but did not get a hearing scheduled. Pipkin plans to reintroduce the bill in January during the full legislative session.

Local officials from many of the state’s rural counties have derided the plan as a way for the state to take away their local zoning authority, which state officials say is false.

State planners have worked on Plan Maryland, which state officials say will save $1.5 billion per year in infrastructure costs, for the past three years and have rolled it out in a series of meetings with local officials across the state. Plan Maryland aims to identify growth areas where development can be fast-tracked. Local governments who fail to adhere to the guidelines would lose crucial funding for schools and roads.

-Nicole Fuller

Posted by Andy Rosen at 4:13 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Anne Arundel County

October 25, 2011

Arundel's Benoit forms committee to explore House bid

Anne Arundel County Councilman Jamie Benoit has formed an exploratory committee for a possible run for Congress in Maryland’s fourth congressional district, he announced Tuesday morning.

Benoit, a second-term councilman and small business owner, said in a statement that he was considering a run in 2012 for the seat now held by U.S. Rep. Donna F. Edwards, a Prince George’s County Democrat.

“I’ve never been more concerned about America’s future and the future of my children and yours,” said Benoit, a Democrat, in the statement. “At this very moment, our do-nothing Congress is depriving working-class Americans of jobs and opportunities. The hallmark of this House of Representatives is self-interest and brinksmanship. If I run, I’ll do my best to stop that."

Benoit, who told a local blog on Sunday that he was considering a run, is the first person to formally announce a challenge to Edwards, whose district was reconfigured under Gov. Martin O’Malley’s recently approved redistricting plan. Large swaths of Anne Arundel County have been added to the district, which also includes parts of Prince George’s County.

Benoit, an attorney and former Army officer, was first elected to the county council in 2006. He is CEO of Federal Data Systems, an IT company.

He graduated from St. Mary’s College, rreceived a law degree from the University of Baltimore School of Law and an LL.M from Georgetown University.

-Nicole Fuller

Posted by Andy Rosen at 10:32 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Anne Arundel County

October 7, 2011

Leopold weighing run for statewide office

Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold said Friday what has long been rumored in local political circles: He’s considering a run for governor or comptroller in 2014.

“I’m going to keep all those options open,” said Leopold, a Republican who is term-limited. “The record that I’ve established of strong fiscal discipline, I think would resonate not only in Anne Arundel County, but elsewhere.”

And he added that he'd relish a slot on the state panel that oversees major spending decisions.

“Having a vote on the Board of Public Works would be a positive thing and it certainly has some impact.”

Leopold, 68, served 20 years in the House of Delegates before he was elected county executive in 2006. Supporters say he has paid close attention to constituent services and have praised his environmental record.

But he also has some personal issues that could potentially affect a run.

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Posted by Andy Rosen at 4:18 PM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Anne Arundel County

September 7, 2011

Sen. Simonaire mulls run for Arundel county exec

State Sen. Bryan W. Simonaire announced Wednesday afternoon that he’s considering a run for Anne Arundel County Executive in 2014.

Simonaire, a Republican who represents District 31 in the General Assembly, said he expects to finish the process of forming an exploratory committee later this fall.

Simonaire said he decided to blow the whistle a full three years before the election on his plans as a sort of preemptive strike against possible opponents.

“Several people are out there starting to try to gain support for the race,” said Simonaire, a six-year veteran of the legislature. “Some of them are trying to take all the oxygen out of the room. I just want to make sure people know there are options out there and they don’t have to commit.”

Several other Republicans are rumored to be considering runs, including Del. Steve Schuh, former Ehrlich administration official Larry Hogan, Sen. Edward R. Reilly and former County Councilman Ronald C. Dillon, Jr.

Simonaire said much of his work in the legislature has centered on local issues involving education, the environment and law enforcement and he forsees having a greater impact on local issues as county executive. He also praised County Executive John R. Leopold, a second-term Republican who is term-limited.

“I think I’ll have a bigger platform to work on local issues,” he said. “I’ve seen a lot of issues come to my office and a lot of them are county issues. …I think there’s a lot of work that can be done, to continue the work of Leopold. … I think he’s done a good job. No politician’s perfect. But as far as keeping taxes low, controlling spending and protecting the environment, he’s done a good job.”

Simonaire, 48, is an engineer at Northrop Grumman and lives in Pasadena. He and his wife Elizabeth have seven children, ranging in ages from 7 to 24.

-Nicole Fuller

Posted by Andy Rosen at 5:58 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Anne Arundel County

August 3, 2011

Arundel councilman hires lawyer, PR rep in tax case

The Anne Arundel County Councilman who was charged Tuesday in federal court for failing to file a tax return in 2005 has hired a prominent Baltimore attorney and Montgomery County communications firm to handle the legal and public relations issues from the allegations.

County Councilman Daryl D. Jones, who briefly answered questions about the indictment when reached on his cell phone Tuesday, issued a statement Wednesday through a media adviser expressing regret and reiterating that he failed to file the return because of family illness, but that he is now “up to date.”

“It’s uncharacteristic of me to not address obligations in a timely manner, but to be candid, it was a very tough period as I struggled to take care of my mother who was gravely ill for an extended time, and then with her passing, adding on the additional responsibility of taking care of my disabled brother,” read the statement issued by Audrey Fix Schaefer, a communications executive.

It continued: “I regret that it happened and I have been working to resolve the matter. I’m now up to date in filing and paying the taxes and interest. I look forward to finalizing the issue, fulfilling my responsibilities and moving on.”

Jones, a second-term Democrat from Severn, was indicted on a single count of failing to file a tax return by the deadline, which is a misdemeanor.

Jones has retained attorney Andrew C. White, a partner in the Baltimore firm Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin and White, to represent him in the tax matter, according to Schaefer. White could not be immediately reached for comment. Jones, a defense attorney himself, also owns a tavern in Glen Burnie.

Marcia Murphy, a spokeswoman for U.S. Attorney Rod J. Rosenstein, said Wednesday she could not confirm the status of Jones’ taxes. An initial appearance and arraignment in the case is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 12 at 2 p.m. before U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Hollander, said Murphy.

-Nicole Fuller

Posted by Andy Rosen at 2:00 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Anne Arundel County

June 14, 2011

Arundel gets new rides for Leopold detail

Anne Arundel County recently purchased three new SUVs for $80,000 and two of the vehicles will replace the small fleet of county-owned vehicles that County Executive John R. Leopold and his security detail drive.

The three 2011 Ford Expeditions will replace similar, older-model vehicles that were assigned to the police and fire departments and to Leopold and the security detail as part of a “normal replacement cycle,” Leopold’s spokesman Dave Abrams said Tuesday. The vehicles were ordered late last year and arrived in the county in April – before the County Council in May voted to prohibit the Police and Fire Departments from purchasing any new vehicles – but have not been used because they are being outfitted with emergency equipment

Leopold typically has three county-owned vehicles at his disposal: a Chevrolet Impala, which he drives on a daily basis; a Ford Expedition assigned to the police bureau overseeing his executive protection unit; and a third Expedition that is assigned to the Fire Department, but serves as a spare for Leopold’s use.

Two of the new Expeditions – which cost the county $28, 582 each – are assigned to the county Fire Department and one will be used as a spare vehicle for Leopold if the others are not available. The other, a slightly more expensive Expedition XL that cost $29,245 replaces a 2006 Ford Expedition that the county paid $26,410 for, and which county officials said has $112,000 miles and has had $7,200 work of maintenance performed on it in the last year-and-a-half.

Continue reading "Arundel gets new rides for Leopold detail" »

Posted by Andy Rosen at 11:00 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Anne Arundel County
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Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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