Allegheny County Controller Chelsa Wagner could face removal from office now that she has been charged with felonies in connection with an incident involving Detroit police, according to state law.
The Allegheny County code says that any officers of the county “whether elected or duly appointed to fill a vacancy shall be removable from office … upon conviction of misbehavior in office or any infamous crime, in accordance with the Constitution of the Commonwealth.”
Courts have interpreted the phrase “infamous crime” to mean a felony or a crime involving dishonesty or a falsehood. Whether the accusations against Wagner are “infamous crimes” is unclear.
Wagner, 41, is running for re-election this year. She faces two felony counts of resisting and obstructing the police and a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct. If convicted on the felony charges, Wagner faces a maximum penalty of two years in prison.
Police charged Wagner’s husband Khari Mosley, 42, with two misdemeanor counts of disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.
Detroit police arrested Wagner on March 6 during an altercation at the Westin Book Cadillac Hotel. Wagner has said she is innocent and described officers as the aggressors in the incident.
Gerald Shuster, a University of Pittsburgh political communications professor, says he doesn’t think Wagner will have to resign.
“I think she’ll negotiate somehow to have whatever she’s charged with now to be reduced to the point where it won’t be a felony. But she’ll get more than the slap on the wrist that she might have gotten initially. It’s a case of two organizations who started to speak to the press before they spoke to each other,” Shuster said.
Wagner and Mosley have been ordered to turn themselves in for arraignment at the 36th District Court in Detroit.
Calls to Philadelphia-based criminal defense attorney Tom Fitzpatrick, who is representing the couple, were not immediately returned.
Allegheny County spokesman Amie Downs declined to comment as did Mike Manko, spokesman for the Allegheny County District Attorney’s office.