Legal challenges surrounding a controversial appointment to fill a vacant Prince George’s delegate seat are scheduled to go before a judge Tuesday, but the county’s Democratic Central Committee said this week that it’s willing to withdraw the nomination.
The committee chose businessman and community activist Greg Hall earlier this month to fill the District 24 seat formerly held by Tiffany T. Alston, who pleaded no contest in October to a charge of misusing campaign funds.
But Gov. Martin O’Malley (D) has requested Halls’ name be withdrawn, and now Hall and Alston have filed legal challenges laying claim to the seat.
Hall has asked the county Circuit Court to block the committee’s attempts to withdraw his name and that O’Malley be ordered to appoint him, according to his attorney.
Alston requested a temporary restraining order to prevent O’Malley from appointing a new delegate, arguing that because her sentence was converted to probation before judgment she has not been removed and the seat is not vacant. State lawyers disagree with her interpretation.
Judge C. Philip Nichols intends to address both complaints together, and a hearing has been scheduled for Tuesday.
Hall’s nomination has come under fire over the past month due to handgun and drug possession charges he faced as a younger man. He also was implicated in a 1992 shootout that left a teenage boy dead.
O’Malley asked the committee earlier this month to withdraw Hall’s name. A spokeswoman said there were plenty of Prince George’s residents the governor would be happy to appoint, and that the legal challenges needed to play out before a decision was made.
The state Constitution says the governor must appoint a central committee’s nominee within 15 days; the clock on Hall’s nomination ran out Monday.
Hall, a former aide to County Councilman Will Campos (D-Dist. 2) of Hyattsville, defended his qualifications after the meeting Monday.
“My constituents know what I do in my community,” Hall said. “Evidently, the governor [doesn’t] believe in redemption.”
Hall acknowledged that he could understand the governor’s concerns about his history, but that his support from the community and local elected officials should carry more weight than his past.
Some community members are standing firmly behind Hall.
“I’m still for Greg Hall,” said Mary Brigham, president of the Columbia Park Civic Association. “Yes, he had to run his life around, [but] I feel that he would do a great job.”
Diana Bullock, also of Columbia Park, praised Hall’s community activism, which she said included efforts to keep drug paraphernalia from being sold in local stores and gas stations.
“He’s tried to get things done in the community,” she said.
Former county State’s Attorney Glenn F. Ivey, said that while he was in office, Hall helped him understand the challenges faced by ex-offenders trying to re-enter society.
“I’d go talk to groups of these guys but didn’t know what I was talking about,” Ivey said. “But Greg had been through it.”
Being able to use Hall as an example of someone who had put his past behind him and then gone to school and later work made it easier to connect with ex-offenders he addressed, Ivey said.
“I’ve always found [Hall] to be a guy who cared deeply about the community,” Ivey said.
The committee voted 12-10 to nominate Hall at a Nov. 2 hearing.
The runner-up was Terry Speigner, the committee chairman, who says he’s no longer interested in the seat.
Speigner said the committee was revising its procedures for filling vacancies to make sure nominees were more thoroughly vetted before being sent to the governor.
Joseph E. Sandler, an attorney for the Maryland Democratic Party who is advising the central committee on the legal issues surrounding the vacancy, said that a final decision on the case likely would be made by the state Court of Appeals.
The courts probably would expedite the process so a delegate could be in place before the start of the upcoming General Assembly session in January, Sandler said.