Fifth prosecutor since February resigns from Howard County state's attorney's office

July 25, 1996|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Another prosecutor in the Howard County state's attorney's office has resigned, the fifth to leave the office since February under the administration of State's Attorney Marna McLendon.

Gail D. Kessler, who practiced law in District Court for the past 19 months, will be joining the Maryland Attorney Grievance Commission to work as an assistant bar counsel. Her resignation, submitted Friday, takes effect Aug. 2.

Kessler, 33, was hired by McLendon when McLendon took office in January 1995. Kessler had worked in the Carroll County District Court Division for more than two years before coming to Howard.

Kessler said the new job, which involves handling complaints against lawyers, represents professional growth. "It's a great opportunity," she said.

Former prosecutors Kathi L. Hill and Timothy S. Mitchell resigned in February amid reports of tensions in the office over McLendon's management style. Two months later, prosecutor Shirley Ripley took early retirement.

In May, prosecutor Mary C. Reese left the office to go into private practice.

McLendon was at a conference in Nashville, Tenn., and not available for comment yesterday. But Deputy State's Attorney Les Gross said he was not concerned by the five departures. There are 22 attorneys -- including McLendon and Gross -- in the office.

"I think people leave the office for all kinds of reasons," Gross said. People get job offers and move on, he said, adding, "I think that in this kind of work it happens."

McLendon, a Republican, replaced Democrat William R. Hymes, who was state's attorney for 16 years before retiring.

On taking office, she instituted major administrative changes, including asking for the resignations of six prosecutors and placing others on probation.

Christine Gage, chief of the District Court Division, who was Kessler's immediate supervisor, said she would not classify the recent moves as indicative of a high turnover rate. People's decisions to move depend on the market in private practice, she said.

"As the economy improves, there are more jobs available for attorneys," Gage said. "Those people who are career prosecutors stay" and others move on after getting desired experience.

Five of the eight attorneys in the District Court office have been hired since June 1995, she said.

"I don't think there is much, if any, dissatisfaction of the individuals that are here with me now," Gage said.

Pub Date: 7/25/96

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