Maryland Supreme Court Will Hear Oral Arguments In Jacob Bennett's Case On April 4
HAVRE DE GRACE - The Maryland Supreme Court will have the final say on the lawsuit between Jacob Bennett and Harford County regarding Bennett’s eligibility to serve on the county council.
Bennett, a Harford County Public Schools Teacher, has been blocked from serving on the council due to a provision in the Harford County Charter that prohibits anyone employed by the state or county may not simultaneously serve on the council.
On February 15, a Circuit Court Judge sided with the county and affirmed their view that the charter provision applies to Harford County Public Schools teachers.
On February 28, Bennett petitioned for his case to be heard by the Maryland Supreme Court. On Monday, the court granted his petition and announced that it will hear oral arguments on April 4.
The key question in the case is whether or not HCPS classifies as a government agency in relation to section 207 of the county charter. The county has argued that HCPS is clearly either a state or county agency, and therefore Bennett’s employment constitutes a conflict of interest.
Bennett, with support from the Harford County Democratic Central Committee and Lawyers for the Maryland State Education Association and Harford County Public Schools, has argued that the public school system is a separate entity from the state or county government.
Bennett’s seat remains unoccupied while the case is pending. According to the county charter, the central committee of the previous council member’s political party must submit a list of three nominees for the seat. The selection process for the new nominees must be completed within 60 days of the seat becoming vacant. This gives the Maryland Supreme Court a soft deadline of April 16 to deliver their decision.
If the court does not issue a decision by that date, the council will be required by the charter to select a new member to fill the vacancy, potentially creating a situation where two individuals claim the seat.
The Harford County Democratic Central Committee is accepting applications until March 20. The group will meet on March 28 at the Havre de Grace Police Department to select its nominees.
The Republican Central Committee of Harford County is calling for a special election for the District F seat. In a Facebook post from the group, they said a special election would “fully re-enfranchise the voters of District F.”