Hutchinson's hi-ji

September 17, 1993

As offenses by politicians go, the ones that got Baltimore County Del. Leslie E. Hutchinson convicted last Tuesday in Essex District Court seem relatively mild.

Her being found guilty of driving with a suspended license and without insurance, while disturbing, isn't so serious as, say, the convictions for theft and misconduct in office that automatically expelled Baltimore Del. Nathaniel Oaks in 1989. Mr. Oaks' missteps, including double-dipping on his legislative expense account, were directly linked to his role as an elected official. Ms. Hutchinson's wrong-doing has had more to do with poor personal judgment and a lack of self-control -- a fact that still doesn't excuse her.

Yet there's this matter of Ms. Hutchinson's being a flagrant scofflaw. Automobile violations, failures to appear in court, unpaid bills, tardy campaign finance reports and the use of her elected office as a springboard for a catering business are among her unethical misadventures.

These hi-jinks have shaken the confidence many of her constituents had in her, as they've stated in letters and calls to state officials and local newspapers. How, voters ask, can a woman with a chaotic personal life be expected to serve them capably in the General Assembly? Also, leaders of the House of Delegates and other members of the county delegation have been embarrassed and disgusted by Ms. Hutchinson's behavior.

The question now is, what happens to the 31-year-old Essex Democrat? She could be forced from office only if her colleagues in the House vote to unseat her by a two-thirds vote. Such an extraordinary move is unlikely, though, barring the equally improbable event of a public uproar so huge that the House would have no choice but to take action against her.

That leaves Leslie Hutchinson's immediate future in the hands of one person -- namely, Leslie Hutchinson. And this might well be the time for her to begin giving earnest thought to resigning from office, if she hasn't begun to do so already.

She isn't up for re-election until November 1994, which means a lot of her constituents will be stuck with an elected representative they no longer respect for at least another year.

Unless, of course, she decides to step down.

Indeed, that might be the wisest course Ms. Hutchinson could take, as the revelations of the past few months have shown her to be a person unsuited for public office.

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