A Republican candidate for Howard County state's attorney has asked the state's special prosecutor to decide if one of his Democratic opponents violated election laws by having assistant prosecutors work for his campaign.
Joseph Fleischmann II, an Ellicott City lawyer, had a letter hand-delivered to state prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli yesterday asking him to investigate the campaign of Michael Weal.
Mr. Fleischmann said he's concerned that Mr. Weal violated state election laws by having two senior prosecutors -- who Mr. Weal said would serve as his deputies if he is elected -- help lead his campaign.
"The marketing of positions in the . . . state's attorney's office goes to the heart of the violation of the impartiality of that office, not to mention election laws," Mr. Fleischmann said in his letter.
Mr. Montanarelli could not be reached for comment.
State election laws prohibit candidates from offering jobs to employees of public offices in exchange for their political support.
The two other candidates for state's attorney -- Republican Marna McLendon and Democrat Dario Broccolino -- also criticized Mr. Weal for having assistant prosecutors involved in his campaign.
But Mr. Weal, chief of the District Court division of the state's attorney's office, said he's done nothing wrong by having many of the agency's 55 employees post signs, hand out brochures and help organize his campaign in their off hours.
"These people have not been coerced or threatened to work in my campaign," Mr. Weal said. "They made the choice. I didn't hold anything over their heads."
Mr. Weal speculated that his opponents raised the issue because he has the most support and the largest number of volunteers. He expects to spend as much as $40,000 on his campaign.
"I think the other three are getting nervous," he said. "They know who the front-runner is, and I think they're grabbing at straws."
Mr. Fleischmann noted in his letter to Mr. Montanarelli that Mr. Weal has two prosecutors -- Michael Rexroad, chief of the office's Circuit Court division, and Senior Assistant State's Attorney Kate O'Donnell -- helping to organize his campaign.
Mr. Rexroad, who is a member of Mr. Weal's campaign committee, called Mr. Fleischmann's allegations "outrageous."
"[Mr. Weal] promised me absolutely nothing," Mr. Rexroad said. "I came to him and asked to work on his campaign."
Ms. O'Donnell, who is working as Mr. Weal's treasurer, could not be reached for comment.
Mr. Weal said that he told Ms. O'Donnell and Mr. Rexroad before he started campaigning that he would like them to serve as his deputies if he wins the election. He said their decision to work for his campaign was one they made separately.
Mr. Fleischmann, as well as Mr. Broccolino and Ms. McLendon, said Mr. Weal has created a conflict of interest for assistant prosecutors, who must handle criminal cases with defense attorneys they may have asked to support Mr. Weal.
The candidates also said assistant prosecutors may feel pressured to support Mr. Weal, fearing that they will be passed over for promotions if they don't work on his campaign.
But Mr. Weal said he would show no favoritism toward the assistant prosecutors who helped his campaign. He added that he is the only one in his campaign who asks private attorneys for their support and contributions.
Mr. Weal said many county officials have employees work as volunteers in their campaigns. He noted that he and other assistants worked for current State's Attorney William Hymes in previous elections. Mr. Hymes is not seeking re-election this year.
Mr. Fleischmann and Mr. Broccolino said they would not permit assistants to work on any political campaign. Ms. McLendon said she would prohibit assistants from working for her re-election campaigns, but they could work for candidates for other offices.