Court asked to prevent swearing-in

City Council loser's suit says winner was ineligible

December 04, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore City Council candidate who lost his bid for an East Baltimore seat this year asked the city Circuit Court yesterday to prevent the winner in that race, Paula Johnson Branch, from being sworn in to office on Thursday, when the new council is inaugurated.

Glenn L. Ross' request for a temporary restraining order against Branch's inauguration is part of the lawsuit he filed against the state Board of Elections contending Branch was ineligible to run because of missing campaign finance reports and unpaid late fees. His lawsuit, filed in city Circuit Court on Nov. 5, calls for a new election in East Baltimore's 13th District.

Branch could not be reached for comment.

"I'm hoping to stop the swearing in of Branch," Ross said. "By law, she was ineligible to be on the ballot."

A campaign committee for Branch has not filed a finance report since last year and owes $1,500 in late fees, state officials have said. Branch has attributed the problem to a computer glitch in the state software needed to file the reports.

Maryland election law prohibits a person from running for or assuming public office if he has "failed to file a campaign finance report that is due from, or on behalf of, that individual."

But in October, the state election board decided that Branch could stay on the ballot. Election officials said candidates rarely can be held responsible for the reporting lapses of their campaign committees.

The board contends that the only people who are liable for delinquent filings are a campaign committee's chairman or treasurer. Candidates cannot serve as their own treasurers, but they can be their own chairmen. Branch did not chair her committee.

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