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County council sets special election for Aug. 6

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Posted on: June 26, 2024

By SAM GAUNTT

The Prince George’s County Council has set Aug. 6 as the date for a special election to fill the seat of Councilmember Mel Franklin (At-Large), who resigned amid charges of embezzlement, fraud and perjury. Photo courtesy of Prince George’s County Council.

The Prince George’s County Council voted unanimously Tuesday evening to hold a special election to fill the vacant seat of former at-large Councilmember Jamel “Mel” Franklin.

A special primary election for the empty seat will be held on Aug. 6. The winners of the primary will face off on Election Day, Nov. 5, when county residents will also vote for candidates for the U.S. House, Senate and presidency. 

Franklin, who was first elected to the council in 2010, abruptly resigned from his position on June 14. Six days later, charges of embezzlement, felony theft scheme and perjury were brought against Franklin in the Circuit Court for Anne Arundel County, the Office of the Maryland State Prosecutor announced.

The charges, which total 16 counts of perjury and two counts each of felony theft scheme and embezzlement, stem from Franklin’s alleged use of more than $130,000 of campaign funds to cover personal expenses, according to the charging documents. 

“Our Office strives to hold individuals in positions of public trust accountable if they violate that trust and exploit the Maryland electoral process for personal financial gain,” Maryland State Prosecutor Charlton T. Howard III, who filed the charges against Franklin, said in a statement. 

According to the charging documents, Franklin transferred funds from his campaign committee, “Friends of Mel Franklin,” to his own account to pay expenses, including rent, travel and cosmetic procedures. The charges allege that over a span of approximately three years, from 2020 to at least October 2023, Franklin transferred $124,450.10 to his personal bank account from the campaign’s.

In other cases, according to the documents, Franklin used the campaign’s account to cover approximately $8,700 of personal costs, including a deposit for an international trip, hotel stays and paying off a credit card.

According to the charging documents, Franklin filed false campaign finance reports with the Maryland State Board of Elections in Anne Arundel County since at least August 2019, for which he faces the 16 charges of perjury. Each charge carries a potential penalty of 10 years’ incarceration.

Franklin, a Democrat, represented the 9th District from 2010 to 2018, before he was elected as one of two at-large councilmembers who represent the entire county. He served as chair of the council from 2013 to 2015. He ushered more than 100 pieces of legislation into law during his tenure, according to his website.  

During his time on the council, Franklin championed developers’ interests in the county. According to an analysis by Route One Finance, some of Franklin’s largest campaign donors worked in the construction industry. 

This is not Franklin’s first brush with legal issues. In 2017, he pleaded guilty to driving while under the influence after he crashed into another vehicle, injuring two people, The Washington Post reported at the time. 

The deadline for candidates to file with the Board of Elections to run for the at-large seat is July 5. County Council Chair Jolene Ivey (District 5) announced on Wednesday that she will run for the seat, WUSA Channel 9 reported. 

During the Aug. 6 primary election, polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. 

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