Dixon's Removal Sought

Petition Says Mayor Was Sworn In By The Wrong Person

July 01, 2009|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,annie.linskey@baltsun.com

A Baltimore man petitioned Tuesday to have Mayor Sheila Dixon removed from office, arguing in court papers that Dixon "holds power unlawfully" because she was sworn into office by Gov. Martin O'Malley instead of by the city's clerk of the court.

The petitioner, David A. Wiggins, also wants a Baltimore judge to install him as the interim mayor. "I had other names, but they backed out," said Wiggins, a paralegal and drug rehabilitation counselor.

Wiggins fears that his case, which he filed without the assistance of a lawyer, will not be taken seriously. "I expect that the court will sweep this under the rug," he said.

City Solicitor George A. Nilson made a quick assessment of the case: "I have thought about this before. Mr. Wiggins will lose," he wrote in an e-mail. "He is legally incorrect."

The state's constitution says that the mayor must be sworn into office by the Circuit Court clerk or his deputy. But Nilson said the same document does allow a governor to give the oath.

Frank M. Conaway, Baltimore's Circuit Court clerk, administered Dixon's oath of office in January 2007 when O'Malley was elected governor and Dixon was elevated to mayor for one year to finish O'Malley's term.

Conaway then ran against Dixon in the Democratic primary.

Dixon won and asked O'Malley to administer the oath in 2008. Conaway cried foul, refusing at one point to sign documents allowing the city to issue a $4.5 million bond for the Quarantine Road landfill because he did not feel she was legally the mayor.

He never took any legal action. Conaway declined to comment for this article.

Wiggins said he's been considering legal action for a year. Dixon's refusal to have the oath administered by Conaway "shows a level of disregard for the law that is unacceptable," he said.

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