- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 22, 2011

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley said Thursday he was “very surprised” to learn that a member of his redistricting advisory panel was recently convicted of tax evasion, but indicated he would not take additional action.

Richard Stewart of Mitchellville pleaded guilty Dec. 15 to federal charges that he failed to collect or pay nearly $4 million in taxes from employees at his company, Montgomery Mechanical Services, from 2003 to 2008.

He is scheduled to be sentenced April 23.

This past summer, Mr. O’Malley appointed Stewart to a five-member panel that drew up recommended new congressional and legislative maps for the state.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, said after a hearing to discuss the legislative map that he was unaware of Stewart’s legal troubles until Wednesday night.

“It is beyond me how any individual would take a state appointment … not saying anything about a matter like this,” he said. “Perhaps he was hoping and thinking that it would all be resolved in his favor.”

The General Assembly and Mr. O’Malley approved a congressional map in October that was largely based on the panel’s submission, and are now set to consider their proposed legislative map.

David Ferguson, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, said Stewart’s conviction brings into question the legitimacy of the panel’s maps, which GOP lawmakers have criticized as favoring the state’s Democratic majority.

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

The governor said Stewart’s transgressions were unrelated to the redistricting process, and that he doesn’t see the need to remove Stewart from the panel since the group’s work is already finished.

Stewart has already resigned from an appointed position with the Maryland Stadium Authority.

“None of these matters had anything to do with his duties or his judgment with regard to either the stadium authority or the maps,” the governor said. “All of these matters arose out of his own business.”

Stewart was the lone member of the redistricting panel not present at Thursday’s hearing.

According to his plea agreement, Stewart must pay $5.4 million in restitution and faces a maximum five years in prison and $250,000 fine.

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