State's attorney sworn in amid staffing shake-up

January 04, 1995|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Sun Staff Writer

Marna McLendon was sworn in as the new Howard County state's attorney yesterday on the heels of a major staffing shake-up she announced last week that involves the departure of nine prosecutors.

As the first Republican to serve as the county's top law-enforcement official in decades, Ms. McLendon oversees an office that will have nearly half of its 22 prosecutors replaced because of forced or voluntary resignations.

At the Circuit Court ceremony yesterday, Ms. McLendon said the state's attorney's office would be ready for the challenges as she institutes new programs.

"I promise you vigor, enthusiasm and very spirited representation as state's attorney," Ms. McLendon told scores of lawyers, politicians, police officers, friends and relatives.

Three of the nine vacancies will be filled by former Carroll County assistant prosecutors, who either quit or were fired by Carroll's new state's attorney, Jerry F. Barnes.

One of those prosecutors, Kathi Hill, was given a plum assignment as a senior assistant state's attorney, a position that means Ms. Hill will handle some of the most serious and high-profile cases in Howard County.

Meanwhile, two Howard prosecutors -- Tracy Gilmore and Shawn Larson -- will go to Carroll County, where seven of 11 staff members have quit, were fired or were asked to resign.

Ms. McLendon, who said during the election that she planned to make vast changes in office operations, vowed that the Howard County changes would not interfere with Circuit Court or District Court proceedings.

"Right now I don't know of any major cases that will need a postponement because of a reassignment," said Ms. McLendon, who noted that cases handled by the departing prosecutors already have been given to other assistants.

The changes at the state's attorney's office start with the chief administrators and work their way down to the District Court division, which handles misdemeanor cases.

Ms. McLendon replaces William Hymes, a Democrat who did not seek re-election after 16 years in office. Mr. Hymes' deputy, Dwight Thompson, resigned last week after 21 years with the office.

Mr. Thompson has been replaced by Les Gross, a 43-year-old Columbia resident and a former administrator at the Prince George's County Police Department.

Meanwhile, six assistant prosecutors were asked to resign by Ms. McLendon. They are:

* Kate O'Donnell, a senior prosecutor who handled many murder and rape cases.

* Bobbie Fine, who oversaw juvenile cases.

* Robert Voss, who tried drug cases.

* Mr. Larson, who handled property crimes.

* Gary Weissner, a District Court prosecutor.

* Martin J. McNamara III, who handled child-support cases.

Also, four assistant prosecutors have been put on probation. Ms. McLendon declined to name them or discuss the length or terms of the probationary period.

Meanwhile, three prosecutors have informed Ms. McLendon that they will resign by the end of this month. Greg Smouse and Daniel Vaccaro plan to go into private practice, while Ms. Gilmore will take a job at the Carroll County State's Attorney's Office.

In addition, two supervisors in the Hymes administration have been reassigned. Michael Weal, who led an unsuccessful bid for state's attorney last year, was demoted from chief of the District Court division to a Circuit Court prosecution position.

Michael Rexroad, whose job as chief of the Circuit Court division was eliminated, will become one of three trial team leaders in Circuit Court. The others are Ms. Hill and Joseph Murtha, who had the same position in the Hymes administration.

Meanwhile, four assistant prosecutors have been promoted. Christine Gage, who was a trial team leader, will be chief of the District Court division. Three District Court prosecutors -- William Tucker, Cindy Johnson and Janine Rice -- have been transferred to Circuit Court.

In addition to Ms. Hill, Eileen McInerney and Gail Kessler will become Howard prosecutors after leaving the Carroll state's attorney's office. Ms. Kessler quit her Carroll job, while Ms. McInerney was dismissed.

In Howard County, the other new prosecutors are Sue-Ellen Hantmann, a Democrat who ran unsuccessfully for county executive last year; Ann Singleton, a former assistant attorney general; and Sang Oh, a former intern with the state's attorney's office.

Ms. McLendon said she expects to hire three additional prosecutors to fill the remaining vacancies.

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