State lawmakers look set to toughen penalties for our more errant elected officials, a move prompted by the corruption cases of former Prince George’s County Executive Jack Johnson, his wife, Leslie, who served on the County Council, and former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon, among others.
One bill, sponsored by Delegate Jolene Ivey, a Prince George’s County Democrat, would amend the Maryland Constitution to remove state, county or municipal elected officials from office upon conviction or guilty plea.
If this legislation is successful, and it has picked up enough co-sponsors in both the House and the Senate that it looks set to be just that, voters will have their say on it as a ballot measure in November.
A second piece of legislation, introduced by Delegate Ron George, an Anne Arundel County Republican, would end the pensions of state lawmakers, serving or retired, convicted of a felony, or misdemeanor that brings imprisonment for “moral turpitude.” This, too, is fair punishment.
Anyone who serves in public office, earning money from the public purse, who enjoys the status and privilege of being elected, should be held to a far higher standard than the rest of us. Their crimes, when committed, not only betray the officeholder but also the office and, more importantly, the public trust.
That betrayal must carry with it a heavier penalty under the law—even heavier than the one outlined in the proposed legislation.
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