Pinning a politician down on the facts isn't easy, even when you have a court order, says John Greiber, an Annapolis attorney directing the county's legal challenge to the new congressional districts.
Greiber said he has had difficulty arranging formal interviews, called depositions, with the legislative leaders who drafted the controversial plan that splits Anne Arundel into four districts.
Their testimony is "a crucial part of the case," Greiber said. "Other than the company version, there is no real evidence of the intentions that went into these districts."
Until the U.S. District Court intervened, legislative leaders had flatly refused to talk. But a three-judge panel opened the door Nov. 18, ruling at an emergency hearing requested by Greiber that Senate President Thomas V. Miller, D-Prince George's, and House Speaker Clayton Mitchell, D-Eastern Shore, are not protected from his inquiries.
Since then, Greiber said, the Attorney General's Office has been stalling and impeding his interviews, rearranging and postponing appointments. Mitchell's deposition had been scheduled for 9 a.m. Wednesday, but Greiber said he was asked the day before by the Attorney General's Office to postpone it by an hour. When he showed up at 10 a.m., he said he was "a tad upset" tolearn Mitchell had come and gone.
Assistant Attorney General Evelyn Cannon said Greiber's charges are "absolutely baseless and groundless. We were there (at 9 a.m.) and he wasn't."
Mitchell's deposition will be rescheduled next week, Cannon said. But, Greiber said, thedelay "put us behind the eight-ball. They know we don't have a lot of time."
The federal court will hear the county's challenge Dec. 13, only 10 days before the deadline for candidates to register for the March 3 primary. Greiber is scheduled to interview Miller today.
County political leaders are upset that Anne Arundel, which has elected its own congressman since the early 1970s, does not have a majority in any district. They say Mitchell, Miller and others gerrymandered the districts, manipulating precincts and dividing established communities to protect several incumbent congressmen.
The bipartisan coalition battling the new districts is attempting to raise at least $25,000 to finance its legal challenge. Some estimates place the cost at $100,000.
State Sen. Michael J. Wagner, D-Ferndale, who chairs the fund-raising effort, said he expects elected county officials to front about $14,000, primarily from their campaign accounts. So far, only U.S. Representative Tom McMillen, whose Anne Arundel County seatwas dismantled, state Senate Minority Leader John Cade, R-Severna Park, and Wagner have come forward with about $7,000 cash, Wagner said.
Many officials who encouraged the suit now appear reluctant to contribute, Wagner said. "There are a lot of elected officials with their hands in their pockets, and so far, they aren't pulling out money," he said.
County Executive Robert R. Neall should be taking a stronger leadership role, Wagner said. "He'sbeen supportive, but he hasn't come out charging," the senator said.
Cade, a Neall ally, also has urged the executive to become more active. He suggested last month that the county Office of Law join the legal challenge, a move Neall dismissed. Louise Hayman, Neall's spokeswoman, said the county cannot legally participate in a suit against the state.
Cade disagrees, arguing that the county could lose millions of dollars in federal grants.
"You need somebody going to bat for you, and Anne Arundel County is not going to have anybody," Cade said. "I believe not only the people, but the county government has a lot at stake and should bedoing everything in its power to fight it."