By Associated Press - Thursday, December 22, 2011

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — A member of an advisory committee on legislative redistricting in Maryland has pleaded guilty to failing to pay employment taxes in connection with his ownership of a Maryland company, prompting the executive director of the Maryland Republican Party on Thursday to question the integrity of the state’s redistricting process.

Richard Stewart, of Mitchellville, pleaded guilty last week, according to a Justice Department release. Stewart was appointed by Gov. Martin O’Malley, Democrat, to be one of five members on the state’s legislative redistricting panel.

“The governor’s redistricting plan has been criticized by liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans alike for its partisan and divisive nature,” David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland GOP said in a statement. “But now, the integrity of the entire map and the process in which it was crafted must be questioned.”

O’Malley said before a redistricting hearing in Annapolis that he was very disturbed Stewart did not disclose to him he was under investigation. He also said the case has no bearing on the legitimacy of the maps, because the committee finished work on them last week when it submitted the state legislative redistricting map to him.

O’Malley also said Stewart will be stepping down from his position on the Maryland Stadium Authority immediately.

“The notion that anyone would take an appointment like this without disclosing that they were having these challenges is beyond me, quite frankly,” O’Malley said.

According to the plea agreement, Stewart did not collect, truthfully account for and pay about $4 million in taxes between 2003 and 2008 for his company, Montgomery Mechanical Services.

Stewart, of Mitchellville, is required to pay $5.4 million in restitution to the IRS, according to the Justice Department.

Stewart faces a potential maximum sentence of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. Sentencing is scheduled for April 23.

Maryland’s congressional redistricting map was approved by the Maryland General Assembly in October, but it is being challenged in federal court in a lawsuit alleging it dilutes the black vote. Maryland’s redistricting map for legislative districts in the General Assembly was made public last week. A hearing is being held in Annapolis on Thursday on that map, which O’Malley is scheduled to formally submit to the legislature in January.

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