Amanda Bessicks, Cecil County State’s Attorney, Resigns for Health Reasons; Judges to Name Successor

February 24, 2019


Amanda Bessicks, the newly-elected Cecil County State’s Attorney, is resigning her post as of 3/15/2019 due to health reasons, according to a letter sent to the county Circuit Court administrative judge.. Her resignation cuts short a promising career as the county’s chief prosecutor and a reform-minded leader for an office that has been mired in turmoil since her predecessor was charged and convicted in an indecent exposure/disorderly conduct case in 2017.

And her decision to resign her position, so that a successor can be named quickly, reflects a level of character and public service that had been absent in the recent past history of the office. Former State’s Attorney Ellis (E.D.E.) Rollins continued to collect a salary and benefits for many months while he unsuccessfully fought, and appealed, the charges against him—while not actually performing the duties of the office. Taking a leave of absence to address her medical issues would have been an understandable, and fully appropriate, course of action while not actually surrendering the office and title.

But her decision to step aside clears the path for the Circuit Court judges to name either an interim or permanent State’s Attorney to lead the office until the next scheduled election for the position in 2022.

Keith Baynes, the administrative judge for the Circuit Court bench, told CECIL TIMES that the judges will meet soon to discuss the situation and decide on a successor for Bessicks. He said the judges had two options: appointing an interim State’s Attorney or selecting a permanent replacement to occupy the position without further judicial oversight until the scheduled election in 2022. If an interim appointee is named, the judges would retain oversight and could replace the interim appointee with someone else at any time before that election.

The judges have been down this road before. They appointed Steve Trostle, the former deputy State’s Attorney to Rollins, as interim head of the office to replace Rollins. But since Trostle did not live in Cecil County, he did not meet the requirements to be named as the permanent State’s Attorney. His residency also disqualified Trostle from running for the job in the 2018 election here. He ran for State’s Attorney in his home of Harford County but finished far back in the pack in that county’s 2018 election.

After winning a three-way contest in the local Republican primary in June, 2018, Bessicks was sworn into office early, in August, 2018, after the Circuit Court judges decided that since she was unopposed in the November, 2018 general election there was no impediment to installing her early to replace what had been an interim appointment of Trostle as a caretaker for the office.

Bessicks moved quickly to place her mark on the office, firing two veteran prosecutors, including Trostle, and installing her own team. She named a campaign supporter, James Dellmyer, as her chief deputy. His private law firm donated $1,100 in “in kind” billboard support to the campaign, according to state Board of Election records.

Dellmyer, a graduate of the Widener University Law School as was Bessicks, worked as a part-time prosecutor as of 2017 but left his private law firm upon being named as the deputy state’s attorney several months ago. Although Bessicks has indicated a preference for her deputy to take over the top post in the office, the judges are under no obligation to select him.

Dellmyer took a controversial position, while in private law practice, of threatening legal and punitive action against a local critic of the former “A Buddy for Life” contractor that operated the county’s animal control program for 3 ½ years until the county government assumed full responsibility for animal services in mid-2016. A woman who was a volunteer at the Buddy shelter raised questions, and gave photos of ailing cats and poor living conditions, to county officials.

After questions about conditions at the Buddy shelter surfaced in public, Alan McCarthy, then a member of the County Council and also a licensed veterinarian, made an unannounced visit to the facility and pronounced it a “mess” and criticized the living conditions for animals there.

But Dellmyer, acting on behalf of the Buddy group, wrote a harsh letter to the volunteer threatening legal action, and even potential jail time, for speaking out publicly and to government officials about the taxpayer-supported operation. Such a legal position raises questions about citizens’ rights to redress their government on matters of public, and taxpayer, interest as well as provisions of state law on “SLAPP” actions—or “strategic litigation against public participation”—which is defined as legal threats designed to silence citizens from speaking out on public issues. State law takes a dim view of SLAPP threats and specifies various remedies for persons against whom such tactics are employed. However, no formal legal action was actually taken against the volunteer for speaking out.

[SEE previous CECIL TIMES report here: ]

The departure of Bessicks, the first woman ever to hold the position of an elected State’s Attorney in Cecil County, is sad for both her own personal reasons and broader political reasons in the county.

She was a first-time political candidate, who brought a new enthusiasm and public-minded agenda that promised to shake up the State’s Attorney’s office and make it more responsive to crime victims, when she won in a three-way contest in the June, 2018 Republican primary. She prevailed with 50.8 percent of the vote in the GOP primary. No Democrats filed for the contest, so Bessicks was the ultimate winner even before the November general election.

Bessicks had been prosecuting cases involving crimes against children since January, 2018 and was a prosecutor for four years before running for the top post. She is a graduate of the University of Delaware and the Widener University Law School and served as a law clerk in the local Circuit Court before joining the State’s Attorney’s office.

Despite being a newcomer to local politics, Bessicks drew strong support from victim advocates, especially the family of Terri Ann McCoy, who was brutally murdered in a Chesapeake City home invasion several years ago. She also won endorsement from the Republican Club of Cecil County.

Her key campaign issue was to shift the local prosecutor’s office to full-time assistant state’s attorneys, ending the long-standing practice of having mostly part-time prosecutors who also operated private civil law practices in the county. Some critics of that system contended that it fostered a climate in which some prosecutors were willing to plea bargain cases, instead of pursuing potentially time-consuming trials, so as to keep their calendars free for private legal work.

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One Response to Amanda Bessicks, Cecil County State’s Attorney, Resigns for Health Reasons; Judges to Name Successor

  1. Renee Edge on February 24, 2019 at 8:33 pm

    Lots of other qualified attorneys with more experience
    would be the better choice.

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