Online chat with Greg Bannon

September 03, 2006

On Tuesday, Aug. 29, The Herald-Mail held an online chat with Greg Bannon, a candidate for Washington County state's attorney. What follows is an edited transcript of that session. Our next guest will be Jerry Joyce, also a state's attorney candidate, on Wednesday, Sept. 6, at 1 p.m. Questions or comments can be submitted before and during the chat, by sending an e-mail to:

Ruth: I have read that you have concerns with the state's attorney's budget, specifically concerning raises and benefits for the employees. From reading the newspaper, I always was under the impression that the commissioners stated what percentage of a raise employees would get.

However, from your statements it appears that you aren't supportive of this. Why do you feel this way and how do you feel your opinion would affect the employees?

Greg Bannon: My concern about the budget is that state's attorney budget has gone up over $467,000 in the last two years, an increase of nearly 30 percent. The bulk of that has been for wages and benefits, not new crime-fighting programs.


On April 15, 2005, (Tax Day) our current acting state's attorney went before the county commissioners and requested a $20,000 pay raise for each deputy state's attorney, not because of any new duties that the deputies were to perform, but apparently in reaction to the fact that the assistant county attorney had recently received a big pay increase. I do not oppose regular cost-of-living pay raises, including those employees in the state's attorneys office.

Barbara: I remember you ran for election back in 1998 as a Democrat. Why did you change to the Republican Party for this election?

Bannon: In 1968, I was the president of the Frederick County Teenage Republicans, and registered as a Republican as an adult. However, for many years the Republican party was not competitive statewide, and many times the Democratic Primary offered an opportunity to choose a better candidate. In later years, the Republican party became more competitive statewide, and I was disillusioned by Democratic leaders such as (President) Clinton and (Gov. Parris) Glendening. In 1998, I ran in a nonpartisan race for judge of the Circuit Court for Washington County. Shortly after 1998, I switched back to the Republican Party.

Chrys: You have complained several times that the State's Attorney should seek the death penalty more often. Baltimore County has a policy similar to the one that you propose. Are you aware that Baltimore County has not had a successful death penalty upheld in 12 years, despite millions of dollars spent fruitlessly seeking the ultimate sanction? Given your complaints about the state's attorney's budget, how could you waste our taxpayers' money?

Bannon: As I have stated before, if I'm elected state's attorney, and if an offender commits first-degree murder and there is evidence of one of the aggravating circumstances listed in section 2-303 of the Criminal Code, I will seek the death penalty. I do not believe it is a waste of the taxpayers' money to aggressively seek the "ultimate sanction" against individuals like Russell Wagner, who was convicted of first-degree murder of the elderly couple on Wilson Boulevard, or of Jack Hammersla, who was convicted of brutally murdering the lady in Smithsburg.

What your question is lacking is an understanding that people who get life sentences for first-degree murder take appeals as Mr. Hammersla has done, and the case is coming back to Washington County after a reversal of his conviction due to an evidentiary error. Also, your question does not take into account the expense of imprisoning the offender for life.

Clark: What in your background qualifies you to run an office as large as the Washington County State's Attorney's Office with its staff of approximately 30 people and annual budget of more than $2 million?

Bannon: For the past 16 years, I have successfully run my own law practice, which has generated income from $400,000 to $1 million annually. I bring to the table this administrative experience along with the knowledge that approximately 50 percent of every dollar goes to one form of taxes or another.

When the health insurance for my employees went up 350 percent in three years, I had to deal with it. I could not go to the county commissioners and ask for more money. When a local judge hired away my best secretary, I had to deal with it. I could not go to the county commissioners and ask for more money to convince her to stay. I think that with this experience I would have a greater appreciation of the taxpayer's dollar.

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