Bury the hatchet

September 06, 1995

Ellen R. Sauerbrey has had her day in court -- and then some. Now it is time to bury the hatchet. Since election night last November, Mrs. Sauerbrey has alleged a conspiracy. She lost the governorship by less than 6,000 votes and still cannot understand how that could have happened.

She formed a "truth squad" to unravel the mystery. She filed a lawsuit to overturn the election results. When she couldn't substantiate her allegations with hard evidence, a sympathetic judge said he had no choice but to dismiss the suit.

Then she sought a criminal inquiry into a Democratic conspiracy. She wound up with probes conducted by the Maryland state prosecutor, the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office. Last month, the three agencies released their findings: No conspiracy could be found, only "error, poor judgment, negligence [and] outright incompetence," according to U.S. Attorney Lynne A. Battaglia.

Concluded Stephen Montanarelli, the state prosecutor who compiled a 150-page report, "There is not a single person whom we can identify as a witness who can give evidence of personal knowledge or observation that a conspiracy existed."

The investigators interviewed hundreds of people and scrutinized thousands of pages of documents. The Sauerbrey camp had lots of chances to present the most damning evidence it had. But the alleged conspiracy eluded them. Undaunted, Mrs. Sauerbrey and her supporters still claim they were robbed, that investigators didn't have the resources for an exhaustive probe and that they dismissed some of the most serious allegations. The conspiracy theorists refuse to give up.

Yet the time has come when most Marylanders recognize the need to stop re-fighting the last election and focus on present-day issues. Three separate investigations and a trial failed to support the Sauerbrey conspiracy theory. Enough is enough. There are plenty of causes in Annapolis for Mrs. Sauerbrey's supporters to rally around -- tax cuts, gun control, casino gambling, government downsizing, regulatory reforms. The 1998 election for governor will be fought on these and other issues, not over an alleged conspiracy that didn't hold up under intense, impartial scrutiny.

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