ANNAPOLIS -- Neither the governor nor his executive agencies may deny loans or grants to projects solely because legislators fail to write letters of support for them, the attorney general concluded yesterday.
But in an opinion that deftly threads its way between an insistent Gov. William Donald Schaefer and enraged legislative leaders, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. said it is not illegal for the governor to ask for such expressions of support. And, he said, they may provide valuable information for decision-makers.
Legislative leaders are angry about Mr. Schaefer's request that they send letters asking for loans, grants or other projects before his executive agencies will approve funds for them or before he will ask that they be slated for consideration by the three-member Board of Public Works.
"No one ever argued [that legislators] have to do it," said Daryl C. Plevy, an executive assistant to the governor. "On the other hand, [letters of support] can be taken into consideration in setting priorities. If I were them and I cared about a project, I would do it."
But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, who requested the opinion along with House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr., D-Kent, said it "fully supported" their belief that lawmakers can't be legally required to do what the governor has demanded.
He and Mr. Mitchell have urged their legislative colleagues to ignore the governor's requests.
"This is about spite," he said. "This is about vindictiveness. This is about petty politics. This has nothing to do with good government or governmental policies as traditionally practiced in the Free State."
Ms. Plevy said the governor interpreted the opinion to mean "he can continue doing what he is doing." And, she said, that is precisely what he intends to do.
But the opinion also said Mr. Schaefer cannot act unilaterally.
If the other two members of the board, state Treasurer Lucille Maurer and Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, wish an item put on the board's agenda, they may do so, the attorney general said.
Mrs. Maurer, the legislature's elected representative to the board, has been requesting that individual items be placed on the board's agenda for next Wednesday's meeting. She said if they are not, she will "make the appropriate motion" to have them placed before the board.