Maximus allegations to be probed

Child support enforcer accused of misconduct

March 30, 2002|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has referred allegations made by a state official against Maximus Inc., the private company that runs Baltimore's child support enforcement program, to the state attorney general's office for criminal investigation.

Carmen M. Shepard, deputy attorney general, confirmed yesterday that the referral had been made but said she could not discuss details of the investigation.

Teresa L. Kaiser, the state's director of child support enforcement, wrote in a letter to lawmakers this month that she thought Maximus case files and records had been "manipulated in a manner that suggests wrongdoing."

Kaiser outlined a series of concerns, including what she called improper closing of cases to improve Maximus' scores on its contractual performance measures. She wrote collections had been inflated by collecting money from noncustodial parents even after their children reach adulthood.

Representatives of Maximus did not return calls seeking a comment. But in a March 21 letter to legislators, Melissa Pappas, a Maximus vice president, denounced Kaiser's charges as "entirely untrue."

Glendening spokesman Michael Morrill said the governor's office could neither confirm nor deny that it has made a referral for possible prosecution.

Morrill said the governor's office applies three criteria in deciding whether to refer a matter for criminal investigation:

That the charges are so serious they must be referred.

That the gubernatorial staff's review leads them to think the charges have merit.

That investigating the charges is beyond the capacity of the governor's office.

The allegations landed amid a bitter legislative struggle over the future of child support privatization in Baltimore. Maximus, aided by lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano, has been pushing hard for a bill and budget amendment that would give it the opportunity to keep its Baltimore contract for three to five more years.

The issue is expected to be a point of contention in House-Senate budget negotiations today. Del. Howard P. Rawlings, House Appropriations Committee chairman, is expected to insist on language requiring any spending on Baltimore child support to go through a private contractor - a device to thwart a possible veto of the privatization bill. Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, the Budget and Taxation Committee chairwoman, opposes the provision.

The Glendening administration opposes an extension of child support privatization, saying a study by the Johns Hopkins University and Towson University showed that public employees could do a better job.

Critics of the administration contend its opposition stems from Glendening's closeness to public employees unions, which oppose privatization.

Kaiser said yesterday that she had been instructed to cooperate with the investigation and make no other comment.

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