Aron’s lawyers oppose ouster

Although she is charged with plotting to kill her husband, removing Ruthann Aron from the Montgomery County Planning Board sets a dangerous precedent for all public servants, lawyers for the embattled developer told the County Council yesterday.

If the council removes Mrs. Aron because she is “unavailable” to attend meetings while in jail awaiting trial, fairness demands that other appointed officials be removed if they fall ill or face personal emergencies, lawyer Judith Catterton said. In the past, the council has not taken such stiff action against sick people.

“If her body and mind had broken down, and there were no arrest and there were no indictment, we all would expect of this, our government, compassion, forbearance and patience,” Mrs. Catterton said.

Mrs. Aron, 54, is charged with trying to kill her husband, Dr. Barry Aron. She is also accused of later trying to hire a professional hit man to kill her husband and a lawyer who opposed her in several lawsuits.

The council is expected to vote Tuesday on whether to remove Mrs. Aron, as allowed by state law. The council held a brief public hearing yesterday to discuss her removal. While they didn’t say how they would vote, none of the council members appeared swayed by Mrs. Aron’s attorneys.

Council members say Mrs. Aron’s prolonged absence from the five-member Planning Board complicates decisions on important matters.

“As a legislative body, it’s incumbent upon us to make some sort of reasonable decision on the question of her availability,” Council Vice President Isiah Leggett, at-large Democrat, said.

Mrs. Aron’s three attorneys were the only people to speak on Mrs. Aron’s behalf.

Lead attorney Barry Helfand scolded the council, saying they are using a legal pretext to avoid a messy situation – and violating Mrs. Aron’s constitutional rights in the process.

“She is an embarrassment to all of you in the situation she brings to us,” he said. “She is an embarrassment . . . and at the same time she is innocent – she is presumed innocent until they have proven her guilty.”

The trial is set for Oct. 27.

Mr. Helfand yesterday confirmed that Mrs. Aron would use mental illness as her defense. Next week, he said, he will ask a county Circuit Court judge to put her in a mental institution, a request that lower court judges repeatedly have refused.

Four persons spoke in favor of removing Mrs. Aron. All had long-standing disagreements with her or the Planning Board, but Council President Marilyn Praisner, Calverton Democrat, cut off any testimony that mentioned Mrs. Aron’s personality, behavior or official decisions. The only issue, she said, was whether Mrs. Aron will be able to attend meetings.

Prosecutors say Mrs. Aron tried to sprinkle a mixture of drugs in Dr. Aron’s food, hoping it would be lethal. They say she later offered an undercover county police officer $20,000 for the killings and was arrested June 9 after posting a $500 deposit for the supposed hit man.