printed 03/29/2019

“The law of unintended consequences” is not just an expression. One day’s moderately trivial circumstance can turn out to be something much different later.

In August 2016, for instance, a resort police officer saw a beer in the cab of a truck parked uptown. The officer waited for the driver to return and enter the vehicle before arresting him for driving while impaired. The suspect, Richard Impallaria of Essex, Maryland was tested for alcohol consumption and posted numbers higher than the state’s .04 DUI limit.

In January the next year, Impallaria was convicted, with sentencing to follow in April. At the sentencing hearing, the prosecution told Judge Thomas Groton (now retired) the usual sentence for a DUI offense was 10 days, but that a longer sentence would be acceptable given the defendant’s bad driving record.

Groton ordered 60 days in jail, but then walked it back to just two days, because, the judge said, the officer was lying in wait for the driver, when he should have stopped him from getting in the car if he suspected the man had been drinking.

Impallaria served his two days and left, but apparently took with him some resentment toward Ocean City.

Flash forward to March of this year, and it’s Delegate Rick Impallaria, a Republican representing parts of Baltimore and Harford counties, who’s sitting in the House Economic Matters Committee in the Maryland General Assembly.

At issue was the Clean Energy Jobs Act, which Democratic leaders thought might be too ambitious to pursue this year, while virtually all Republicans opposed it outright. One part of the bill called for greatly expanded offshore wind turbine development, which Ocean City opposes if turbines can be seen from shore.

Before the committee was a motion to kill the bill. It had the support of four Democrats and all the Republicans … except Impallaria. He broke with his party to keep the bill alive in an 11-10 vote. Was it payback to Ocean City? Maybe. Should he have been arrested, absolutely, but perhaps as Groton suggested.

Even so, conservative groups now want Impallaria out of office, and that would be a consequence that’s fully intended.

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