Simms considered for top DEA post BALTIMORE CITY

February 03, 1993|By Norris P. West | Norris P. West,Staff Writer Washington Bureau contributing writer Nelson Schwartz assisted with this article.

Baltimore State's Attorney Stuart O. Simms is being considered for a post in the Clinton administration.

Mr. Simms, 42, said he was approached by members of the Clinton transition team to apply for chief of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

"Obviously, it's flattering to be considered," he said. "It's still early in the process, and we'll have to wait to see what happens."

Although Mr. Simms and several other candidates have been mentioned for the nation's top drug cop, officials at the White House and on Capitol Hill emphasized that a decision probably won't be made until a new attorney general is chosen.

Zoe Baird, President Clinton's first choice for attorney general, withdrew from consideration after criticism surged over her violation of immigration laws.

The president is expected to replace Bush-appointee Robert A. Bonner as head of the DEA with an appointee of his own.

U.S. Rep. Kweisi Mfume, D-Md.-7th, said he believes Mr. Simms is a strong candidate for the DEA post because Clinton transition officials initiated the contact.

The congressman added that Mr. Simms may have other options in the new administration.

"As chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, I think Stuart Simms would be an excellent choice to serve as deputy attorney general," Mr. Mfume said yesterday.

However, he said he had not yet yet discussed that possibility with Mr. Simms.

"I'm not telling him what he should be applying for. I would not rule anything out," he said. "Clearly, Stu Simms is a rising star."

Mr. Simms said Clinton transition officials asked him to apply for the DEA job several weeks ago, when they were seeking to fill top Justice Department positions.

He said he was in the informal stage of the process and that he has not been interviewed for the job.

Sources say other candidates include Lee P. Brown, the former New York police commissioner; Robert Stuttman, former special agent in charge of the DEA's New York region; Rhea Dignam, former executive assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York; Phila

delphia Deputy Mayor John Wilder, a former DEA special agent in charge of Washington and Philadelphia; and John J. Coleman, the DEA's assistant administrator for operations.

Mr. Simms, who jokingly referred to himself as a "plain ol' country prosecutor," said he was concerned about how international drug trafficking affects cities such as Baltimore.

"We've been prosecuting not only Marylanders and other Americans," he said. "We've had Dominicans, Nigerians and people from other countries come through our court."

Mr. Simms was appointed deputy state's attorney in Baltimore in 1983, and succeeded Kurt L. Schmoke as state's attorney when Mr. Schmoke became mayor of Baltimore.

Mr. Simms is a graduate of Dartmouth College and the Harvard University Law School.

He was the staff counsel for Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, D-Md., during 1977 and 1978 and was an assistant U.S. attorney from 1978 to 1982.

Mr. Simms also is considered to be a top contender for U.S. attorney in Baltimore, although many sources believe the job will go to Lynne A. Battaglia, a chief aide to Maryland Democratic Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.

Mr. Simms said he wasn't focusing on the prospect of getting a federal job. "Right now I'm just trying to do the best job I can in my present post," he said. "We'll take things as they come."

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