The trial of Del. Tiffany Alston, D.-Dist. 24, accused of misusing public funds began on June 5 with her lawyer already posturing in the courtroom and in the media.

Alston was brought up on misdemeanor charges after she was accused of paying Rayshawn Ford, an employee of her law firm, $800 in legislative funds after her the business account of her law firm was closed. Prosecutors say that to try to avoid detection, Alston allegedly had Ford added to the state payroll and paid her a rate of $100 per day.

Prosecutors sayFord never actually worked in Annapolis during the time she was on the state’s payroll, instead worked for Alston’s law firm.

Alston has made plenty of waves I her short time in the State House. Last year, she became a focal point in the same-sex marriage debate after she walked away during a committee vote on the legislation, temporarily leaving the matter unresolved. Alston returned to the table to change the language of the bill from same-sex marriage to civil unions, but when that amendment was rejected, she voted against the bill.

Then Alston became an outspoken critic of Gov. Martin O’Malley’s redistricting plan. Alston along with Del. Michael Hough, R.-Dist. introduced a bipartisan map supported by the Maryland Republican Party and the Fannie Lou Hamer Political Action Committee.

It is those stances that her attorney, J. Wyndal Gordon, says is the real reason why she’s on trial.

“We find it more than a coincidence that these things occurred in such temporal proximity,” Gordon said during a court recess.

This is just the first trial for Alston. A trial on charges that Alston allegedly drew $3,560 in campaign funds to pay for her wedding begins in the fall, $660 in campaign funds to pay an employee and $1,250 in campaign funds for herself.
In regards to those charges, State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt said that there’s no way that Alston could have thought that what she was doing was right.

“Information on the requirements of the campaign finance laws and guidance in complying with those requirements is readily available to candidates in the annotated code…” Davitt stated. “Under these circumstances, there is simply no excuse for candidates or their responsible campaign finance officers to flagrantly and repeatedly violate the requirements of the law in the conduct of their campaign finances.”

Alston faces over 10 years in prison and over $25,000 in fines for all of the charges.

 

George Barnette

Special to the AFRO