ANNAPOLIS — House Speaker Michael Busch has asked a state agency to conduct biweekly reviews of Del. Tiffany Alston’s legislative account in the aftermath of an indictment alleging theft and misconduct in office.
Busch said in a statement on Thursday that he also has asked the Department of Legislative Services to assume responsibility for verifying timesheets of her legislative employees.
Earlier Thursday, an Anne Arundel County grand jury returned an indictment charging Alston with theft and misconduct in office. She’s accused of adding a law firm employee to the state payroll to pay for work performed at the firm.
Busch said that while Alston has not been convicted of a crime, he believes the allegation of theft of state dollars warrants an immediate response to assure legislative funds are being used appropriately.
Alston, a Prince George’s County Democrat, already had been charged with spending campaign funds on wedding expenses.
Alston’s employee, who never worked in Annapolis and continued to perform her duties at the newly-elected delegate’s firm, was not paid for those services by the firm, according to the indictment. Instead, the indictment alleges that the state paid her a total of $800, at a rate of $100 per day, as a legislative clerk before she resigned in January.
“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.”
Neither Alston nor her attorney representing her in the previous indictment immediately responded to messages seeking comment.
In September, Alston, 34, was indicted on 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. She also 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. The checks for her wedding expenses were returned to the bank for insufficient funds.
Alston made news during the General Assembly’s 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 18½ 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.