Mega mea culpa Gary's apology: Anne Arundel executive's frank admission too rarely seen in politics.

October 31, 1997

JOHN G. GARY'S mouth is his greatest asset; it can also be his greatest liability. The Anne Arundel County executive's intemperate outburst against Circuit Court Administrative Judge Clayton R. Greene Jr. last week was a perfect example of how Mr. Gary can effortlessly dig himself into political trouble. His next-day apology also typifies his considerable skill in correcting his mistakes.

Perhaps Mr. Gary now understands there are limits to his crusade against State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee. He is displeased with Mr. Weathersbee's handling of the county's asset forfeiture program, in which police seize cars of people caught with drugs.

Mr. Gary and his legal advisers believe that Assistant State's Attorney Trevor A. Kiessling Jr., who works for Mr. Weathersbee, illegally submitted legal affidavits attesting to the fact that Police Chief Larry W. Tolliver had reviewed all the automobile seizures. The chief never saw the paperwork.

Mr. Gary wants Mr. Kiessling charged with perjury. He cannot understand why the county's judges aren't as worked up as he is.

He accused Judge Greene of protecting Mr. Kiessling because the prosecutor had donated money to the judge's campaign.

Members of the bar, of both parties, let the county executive know that he was out of line to ascribe crass political motives to a respected member of the bench.

Moreover, they also said that jurists, who regularly hear lies from defendants, witnesses and occasionally lawyers, are the most appropriate judges of what constitutes perjury.

To his credit, Mr. Gary acknowledged his mistake and quickly issued a public apology.

His statement was not the typical self-serving acknowledgment of a mistake we have come to expect from politicians, sports figures and other celebrities; the kind that shifts responsibility from those actually doing the apologizing to the people "who might have taken offense," as if the offended are actually at fault.

By saying his criticism of Judge Greene reflected "poor judgment," Mr. Gary's admission was appropriately self-critical. The executive deserves all the criticism he received for his initial misguided and unfounded remarks, but he should be given full credit for his genuine effort to correct them.

Pub Date: 10/31/97

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