Arundel Republicans go to court over lame-duck delegation voting

Accuse Democrats of illegal maneuver to keep majority

January 05, 2003|By Lynn Anderson | Lynn Anderson,SUN STAFF

The lawsuit filed by Anne Arundel County Republicans late last week accusing Democratic legislators of wresting control of the House delegation is the latest flare-up of tensions between the two parties, even as the newly configured delegation prepares for the 2003 General Assembly that begins Wednesday.

Acting on a promise made a month ago, the county GOP filed a lawsuit in Circuit Court on Friday accusing local Democrats of taking an illegal vote and setting new rules to dilute GOP leadership.

The lawsuit was filed by Republican Dels.-elect Herbert H. McMillan and Donald Dwyer on behalf of the local Republican Central Committee, which voted last month to pursue legal recourse against local Democrats, including House delegation Chairwoman Mary Ann Love, a Democrat from Glen Burnie.

Love presided over the Dec. 2 delegation meeting at which elected officials - including two lame-duck delegates - voted to give one vote each to three Prince George's County delegates whose district includes only a sliver of Anne Arundel County.

The rule change gave Democrats an 8-7 majority in the delegation, sealing Democratic control of the county's legislative agenda for another four years.

To try to keep that from happening, Republicans are seeking a court injunction to block the election of a new delegation chairman and vice chairman until the case can be heard in court.

Republicans hope the court will invalidate the Dec. 2 vote, giving them a shot at recapturing a majority in the delegation.

Love could not be reached for comment Friday.

Republicans charge that the Dec. 2 vote - which reversed an April 5 delegation vote that gave the Prince George's delegates just one collective vote - was designed to subvert GOP power. In the November election, the GOP won a majority of the districts that lie entirely within Anne Arundel County.

"By changing the rules after the election, they nullified the will of the voters," said James E. Rzepkowski, a Glen Burnie Republican. "The voters clearly said, `We want Republicans to lead the delegation.'"

McMillan said he filed the lawsuit because Love had no legal authority to call the Dec. 2 meeting and that the vote should therefore be nullified.

He said only standing committees are allowed to vote when the General Assembly is not in session and the Anne Arundel House delegation does not qualify as a standing committee.

Some of these Democrats are lucky they held on to their seats, and now they are trying to go behind the voters' backs," McMillan said.

McMillan was stunned recently when Love invited delegates-elect, including him and Dwyer, to elect a new chairman and vice chairman at a meeting to be held Wednesday morning - several hours before their scheduled inauguration at noon.

At the Dec. 2 meeting, McMillan was told he could not vote because he had yet to be sworn into office.

"We still have not been sworn in as delegates," McMillan said in a recent letter to Love. "However, now that you've succeeded in illegitimately creating a Democratic majority, you call upon us to vote for delegation officers. ... Your reasoning is inconsistent and exposes the injustice of your actions."

Rzepkowski said he had not heard any explanation for the discrepancy in voting procedure.

"I'd like to hear them explain it," he said, referring to Democrats. "This one reeks so badly there's no excuse for it."

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