Howard prosecutor Tucker quits State's Attorney McLendon has seen half of her staff leave in the past 28 months

June 18, 1998|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

William V. Tucker, chief of the juvenile division of Howard County's state's attorney's office, has resigned. His departure means half the office's 22 attorneys have left in the past 28 months.

Tucker, 36, recently named prosecutor of the year, will be going into private practice. Tucker was appointed to his $54,725 job by State's Attorney Marna McLendon when she took office in January 1995.

In an interview, Tucker said wants to gain experience in civil law because one day he hopes to be a judge.

"I've accomplished as much as I can here," Tucker said.

Still, Tucker's resignation re-ignited controversy over the office turnover rate and McLendon's management style, which have become campaign issues for McLendon's opponent, attorney Timothy J. McCrone, a Democrat.

McCrone has said he wants to "stabilize the office" and "stop the bleeding" of departing prosecutors.

"It is unfortunate that the Howard County state's attorney's office has lost yet another experienced and talented prosecutor," McCrone said yesterday.

McLendon has defended the departure of the prosecutors by saying that offices like hers are often stepping stones for attorneys. Turnover is often high, because attorneys gain experience and then move to more lucrative jobs.

Yesterday, McLendon released a statement about Tucker's resignation, effective July 10. She noted his accomplishments as a prosecutor -- he recently gained the conviction John Righter of kidnapping a former co-worker and driving her, handcuffed, to Ohio.

"An extremely hard worker and consummate professional, Mr. Tucker will be greatly missed," McLendon wrote.

The 11 prosecutors that have left since February 1996 are in addition to the six prosecutors McLendon, a Republican, fired when she took office. Another prosecutor, Joseph Murtha, left the office in 1995.

Several former and current prosecutors, who refused to be identified, describe McLendon as a heavy-handed leader, pointing to her firing of the six prosecutors on Christmas Eve just before she took office in 1995.

"Most of the folks who know what they are doing are not staying, and the reason they are not staying is she isn't developing any loyalty," said Janine Rice, a former prosecutor who is supporting McCrone. "If you are happy, why would you leave some place?"

McLendon called those statements "a red herring."

"It appears malicious. It's just wrong," McLendon said. "Bill [Tucker] is leaving because of professional growth. He's a gem."

Pub Date: 6/18/98

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