A Prince George’s delegate suspended from office last month after pleading no contest to a charge of misusing campaign funds cannot be reinstated, according to the Office of the Attorney General.
Del. Tiffany Alston (D-Dist. 24) of Mitchellville was automatically suspended from office when she reached a plea deal with prosecutors early last month.
But she was also permanently removed from office at that time because she waived her right to an appeal, wrote Dan Friedman, counsel to the General Assembly in the attorney general’s office, in a letter to House Speaker Michael E. Busch (D-Dist. 30) of Annapolis dated Nov. 1.
“No subsequent modification of her sentence by the trial court can result in her restoration to office during this term,” Friedman wrote.
The Maryland Constitution calls for elected officials who are convicted of felonies or misdemeanors relating to their public duties and involving moral turpitude to be suspended from office without pay or benefits, upon conviction. When the conviction becomes final “after judicial review or otherwise,” the official is permanently removed from office.
“It is my view that Ms. Alston’s conviction became final by virtue of her receiving a conviction and, simultaneously, forfeiting her appellate rights,” Friedman wrote.
Busch intends to follow Friedman’s recommendation, a spokeswoman said.
Alston was found guilty in June on charges that she had used General Assembly money to pay a clerk at her law firm. She pleaded no contest in October on separate charges that she had used campaign funds for personal expenses, including to pay wedding bills.
As part of the plea deal, Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Paul Harris said that if Alston meets the conditions of her sentence — which include 300 hours of community service and paying restitution to the General Assembly — she can request probation before judgment, which could result in her conviction being expunged.
Alston argued in October that this meant her case was still under judicial review.
Alston’s attorney, Raouf M. Abdullah, said the legal team disagreed with Friedman’s analysis and would likely file a response with Busch’s office asking the House speaker to reconsider.
The Prince George’s County Democratic Central Committee is scheduled to decide Friday evening on a replacement for Alston. The committee will send its recommendation to Gov. Martin O’Malley (D), who will have 15 days to fill the vacancy.