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Charles County commissioners’ President Candice Quinn Kelly (D) apologized Tuesday for writing a letter to a judge in support of a drunk driver who killed a father of three last year.

Confronted at a La Plata “town hall” meeting by Anna and Becca Woodford, the widow and daughter of victim Philip L. Woodford, Kelly said she hadn’t comprehended the pain her support for driver Stephanie Ann Orbits of Pomfret would cause the family.

Kelly also apologized for writing her letter on county government letterhead, an action that elicited complaints from the judge and prosecutor at Orbits’ sentencing two weeks ago.

The Woodfords left soon after, and the conversation moved on to other things. But not for long.

Tom deSabla of La Plata, arriving late, derailed a land use discussion when he walked into the room dressed all in black, except for large white lettering on his T-shirt and baseball cap advertising his new website,

“Would you mind telling me why I should resign?” Kelly asked.

“If you can send letters on county letterhead for your friends, it’s an abuse of power. It’s a crime. It’s using county resources for your own benefit. It’s a crime. You should resign. That’s it,” deSabla replied.

Kelly repeated her apology, calling the letter “a terrible lapse of judgment. If I could get a do-over, I would like to.” She noted that in the opinion of County Attorney Barbara L. Holtz, neither Kelly nor Commissioner Bobby Rucci (D), who wrote a similar letter, had broken ethics rules.

“I respect this office, and I am very, very sorry that my actions demeaned the office, hurt innocent people and didn’t help the friend that I was trying to find redemption for. It was the worst failure. You have every right to be angry with me. You have no idea how angry I am with me,” Kelly said.

deSabla replied that he appreciated her remorse but his mind had not changed. He carried a petition with dozens of signatures calling for her to step down. He is circulating the same petition on the Internet, where it had garnered six signatures by Tuesday night.

Kelly said she would not resign.

“I’m just curious why you chose the female commissioner” instead of targeting both Kelly and Rucci, Pauleen Brewer of Hughesville asked deSabla.

“I picked one. I picked the boss. I picked the most powerful one. Is that OK with you?” deSabla answered. He said both commissioners should leave.

Kelly had enemies and friends in the room.

“I support you, and I know there are a lot of people that support you. I know there’s people that want to throw rocks at you, but that’s part of being an official and being a commissioner,” said Johnnie DeGiorgi, who ran unsuccessfully for commissioner in 2010.

Rucci did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.