ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) – A state legislator from Prince George’s County was indicted Thursday for a second time, prompting House Speaker Michael Busch to call for a state agency to conduct biweekly reviews of Delegate Tiffany Alston’s legislative account.
Alston, a Democrat, was indicted in September for allegedly spending campaign funds on wedding expenses and the salary of a law firm employee. The state prosecutor’s office on Thursday announced a second indictment, this one charging her with theft and misconduct in office.
The second indictment alleges Alston sought to pay an employee of her private law firm by arranging for her to be added to the state payroll at the rate of $100 a day. The state ended up paying about $800 to the employee, who never worked in Annapolis, the indictment says.
“Public service is a public trust, and persons elected to represent the public in the General Assembly have been entrusted to use their office for the good of the public,” State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt said in a statement. “The Office of the State Prosecutor will continue to vigorously investigate and prosecute public officers who betray the public trust and abuse their offices for personal gain.”
Alston, 34, did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
The attorney representing her in the previous indictment did not immediately respond to messages seeking comment.
Busch said in a statement Thursday that he has asked the Department of Legislative Services to assume responsibility for verifying timesheets of her legislative employees.
“While it is important to remember that Delegate Alston has not been convicted of a crime, I believe that the allegation of theft of state dollars warrants an immediate response to assure the public that legislative funds are being used appropriately by those who have been entrusted with them,” Busch, a Democrat, said in a statement.
The indictment in September charged Alston with one count each of felony and misdemeanor theft, misappropriation by a fiduciary and two election-law offenses. She is accused of issuing two campaign account checks totaling $3,560 to cover her wedding expenses last year. The indictment also alleges she used her campaign account to make payments of $660 to a law firm employee, and also withdrew $1,250 in cash for personal use last December, prosecutors said.
Alston made news during the General Assembly’s 2011 session, sponsoring a bill to legalize same-sex marriage and later voting against the bill, saying she was having trouble balancing her personal views and constituent pressure.
Alston already faced as many as 18 1/2 years in prison if convicted of all five charges in the first indictment, though defendants in nonviolent cases hardly ever receive the maximum possible sentences. A trial in the case is set for May.
If Alston is convicted of both charges in the second indictment, she could face another 18 months or more.
The charges against Alston are the latest in a series of corruption allegations against Prince George’s County officeholders. Last week, former County Executive Jack Johnson was sentenced to more than seven years in prison for collecting bribes and extorting campaign contributions. His wife, former Councilwoman Leslie Johnson, was sentenced to one year and a day for obstructing an investigation into her husband’s corruption.
State Sen. Ulysses Currie was acquitted last month of charges of using his influence to benefit a grocery store chain for which he worked as a consultant. He could still face sanctions from an ethics panel of fellow lawmakers.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)