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August 6, 2008

No recall, and impeachment of commissioners would require state intervention

CUMBERLAND - It's safe to say that the overwhelming majority of phone calls, e-mails and other correspondence between the general public and the Times-News have been supportive of Allegany County Sheriff David Goad.

Or, at the very least, they have been strongly against the expansion of the county Bureau of Police. But the commissioners of Allegany County are essentially bullet-proof when it comes to questioning their motives - and their methods - for taking over road patrol duties from Goad.

Maryland voters don't have the right to recall elected officials, said Kitty Davis, administrator of the Allegany County Board of Elections. Neither can any initiative be placed on the ballot in November.

"It's something at the beginning we didn't track," Davis said. "This has been a very small percentage" of phone calls inquiring about a potential recall. "We've had a larger percentage of calls from people who want it on the ballot. They're focusing more to the issue than to the replacement of the commissioners."

Voters won't have a say in the issue, officially, until the 2010 election, when all three county commissioners are up for re-election.

Unless, of course, voters can prove malfeasance of current officeholders or county government. County Attorney Bill Rudd said that's very hard to do. Webster's defines malfeasance as "the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful or contrary to law; wrongdoing (used especially of an act in violation of a public trust)."

The Maryland General Assembly could choose to intervene, according to a statement issued by Raquel Guillory, spokeswoman for the state Attorney General's Office. Guillory quoted Assistant Attorney General William Varga as stating that, "although the (state) Constitution does not specifically authorize the impeachment of a county commissioner, this office (relying largely on out-of-state authority) has taken the position that the General Assembly could impeach any elected official, which would extend to a county commissioner."

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