P.G. Delegate Woods, called object of mobile phone probe, resigns

January 30, 1991|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- State Delegate Sylvania W. Woods Jr., a Prince George's County Democrat beginning his fourth term in the General Assembly, apparently under investigation by the state prosecutor's office, suddenly resigned yesterday.

Mr. Woods, the 37-year-old chairman of the Prince George's House delegation and son of a county District Court judge, could not be reached for comment. His resignation, effective at 9 a.m. yesterday, was tendered without explanation in a one-sentence letter delivered to the House speaker yesterday morning.

In an article in Monday's editions of the Prince George's Journal, Mr. Woods was quoted as saying he was thinking of leaving because the thrill of being in the legislature was gone, because he wanted a lifestyle with more normal hours, and because he was considering settling down, getting married and developing a career.

But several legislators said yesterday that they believed his resignation was directly connected to an investigation by state prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli into Mr. Woods' alleged participation in a scheme involving the purported sale of mobile telephones to state legislators.

"I heard the special prosecutor's office is investigating him in connection with the sale or apparent sale of Cellular One telephones," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's. "It was in connection with his capacity as a member of the House of Delegates."

As described by the legislators, Mr. Woods allegedly received commissions on the sales of telephones that his legislative colleagues neither ordered nor received.

Mr. Montanarelli declined to comment. "I really can't discuss it," he said. "I can't confirm and I can't deny it."

Mr. Woods' lawyer, Herman Dawson, did not return a telephone call last night, but another lawyer who said he has informally advised Mr. Woods, Annapolis lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano, said the delegate was not forced to resign.

"His resignation today was done at his own decision, his own volition, his own choice, his own action. It was what he wanted to do, decided to do, thought was appropriate to do," Mr. Bereano said.

Mr. Woods has sold mobile telephones for Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems and other cellular phone dealers over the last several years, according to disclosure forms filed with the state, legislators and lobbyists who know him, and telephone industry officials.

At least two other Prince George's County lawmakers besides Mr. Miller as well as one member of the House leadership -- all of whom asked not to be identified -- said they believed the resignation was directly linked to the investigation.

One Prince George's senator, who also asked not to be named, confirmed yesterday that he was called by the state prosecutor's office last week and asked if he had ordered a mobile telephone. He said he had not.

Mary F. Atwell, chief of the General Assembly's accounting office, said that about two weeks ago assistant state prosecutor Thomas Krehely and State Police Cpl. Benjamin Hurdle confiscated from her office a bill of approximately $600 from Bell Atlantic Mobile Systems for mobile telephones that were never ordered by the General Assembly.

The bill first arrived in the General Assembly in the office of Peggy Kitts, who oversees telecommunications for the legislature. Ms. Kitts said when she called the Bell Atlantic customer service representative to find out where the bill should be forwarded, she was told the purchase order was authorized by Ms. Atwell, and sent it on to her.

But Ms. Atwell said that was "absolutely not the case."

The General Assembly, she said, has a policy prohibiting the expenditure of state money for mobile telephones for any legislators except the two presiding officers.

"People can use your name rather recklessly. It certainly was not my signature," she said.

Ms. Atwell said her office was trying to decide whether to return the bill unpaid to Bell Atlantic when she was contacted by the state prosecutor's office and asked to hold it.

Both Ms. Kitts and Ms. Atwell said no legislators' names appeared on the Bell Atlantic bill.

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