Prosecutor job change proposed

August 25, 1994|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

The four candidates for Howard County state's attorney each claimed yesterday to have the best skills to bring change to the prosecutor's office.

The two Democrats and two Republicans outlined their proposals for running the county prosecutor's office at a lunchtime forum sponsored by the Howard Bar Association's young lawyers committee.

About 70 private attorneys, public defenders and prosecutors heard the candidates discuss issues ranging from victim-witness services to plea bargains to prosecutor-police relations and the functions of the county's grand jury. Republicans Marna

McLendon and Joseph Fleischmann II and Democrats Michael Weal and Dario Broccolino go before voters in their respective party primary elections Sept. 13. The two winners will meet in November's general election.

Each candidate stressed in closing comments that the office is ready for change, now that State's Attorney William Hymes has chosen not to seek his fourth four-year term.

"I know what things need to be changed," said Mr. Weal, who is now chief of the office's District Court division. "I am receptive to change."

Ms. McLendon said the office would not run business-as-usual under her administration. "It is clearly a time for change," the former police officer and prosecutor said. "I believe I'm the best person to do that."

Mr. Fleischmann, a private attorney and former prosecutor, warned that if measures aren't taken to change operations at the State's Attorney's Office in this election, it may be years before the office shakes off its "record of malaise."

Mr. Broccolino, a former prosecutor who is now executive director of the Maryland State's Attorneys Association, said he is the only candidate with "true independence" to guide the prosecutor's office.

Mr. Fleischmann and Mr. Weal traded barbs during the hourlong forum over the involvement of two assistant state's attorneys in Mr. Weal's campaign. The assistants are expected to be named as Mr. Weal's deputies if he's elected.

Mr. Fleischmann has requested an investigation by the state's special prosecutor to determine if election laws have been violated. He said the issue shows why it's important to keep politics out of the operations of the State's Attorney's Office.

But Mr. Weal stressed that he had asked the assistants -- Michael Rexroad and Kate O'Donnell -- to become his deputies if he's elected long before they joined his campaign. He added that they approached him about working on the campaign.

The candidates also fielded written, unsigned questions from the lawyers in the audience.

Mr. Broccolino was asked if an advisory board he wants to establish with police officers, judges, defense attorneys and prosecutors would create conflicts of interest.

He said it would not because its mission would be only to provide a forum for citizens to voice concerns.

Ms. McLendon was asked if her business, a coffee shop and bookstore in Ellicott City, would interfere with her management of the State's Attorney's Office. She answered that her husband would oversee the business if she's elected.

Mr. Weal, a supervisor at the office for 15 years, was asked whether the 55-member staff should be led by an administrator or a litigator. He said the office needs an administrator to oversee the office's many managerial duties so the skilled prosecutors are free to handle cases.

Some of the proposals outlined by the candidates were:

* Mr. Broccolino's plan to begin using preliminary hearings -- instead of relying upon the grand jury -- to determine how to proceed with cases. He said he believes this will speed up the judicial system.

* Mr. Fleischmann's plan to institute a system that would require prosecutors to meet with police officers, victims and witnesses immediately after they are assigned to a case to quicken the pace of the court system.

* Ms. McLendon's plan to establish guidelines -- with the help of police officers -- on how prosecutors should handle specific crimes, repeat offenders and plea bargains to make sure that each case is treated consistently.

* Mr. Weal's pledge to strengthen victim-witness services by adding assistants to provide the programs, increase their training courses and expand services to District Court. Most services are only available in Circuit Court.

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