Employee records sought in probe

Ex-worker's file, another's computer released to FBI

August 29, 2002|By Greg Garland and Gail Gibson | Greg Garland and Gail Gibson,SUN STAFF

Federal authorities investigating a state crime-control office overseen by Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend have issued new subpoenas seeking personnel records for a former Maryland State Police employee and the computer hard drive of another former state worker, officials said yesterday.

A subpoena delivered to state police headquarters by FBI agents on Tuesday demanded all work records for Daniel I. Franklin, who apparently was paid out of the state police budget while working as a researcher and speechwriter for Townsend, records and interviews show.

Also yesterday, officials with the University of Maryland, College Park turned over to a federal grand jury the computer used by a former worker at the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention who has said she was paid with federal crime-fighting dollars to do research that would benefit Townsend's campaign for governor.

It was unclear what information federal investigators were seeking, and the subpoena to state police appeared to mark a new direction for the grand jury probe. So far, investigators have focused on whether the crime-control office improperly used federal funds to pay for political tasks or ghost employees.

Appearing yesterday at an unrelated news conference, U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio declined to comment on the investigation. FBI officials in Baltimore also have refused comment.

Townsend has dismissed the probe as "political garbage," orchestrated by Republican DiBiagio to benefit her likely GOP opponent, Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. The Democratic lieutenant governor and the head of the crime-fighting agency have said they are confident that investigators will find no wrongdoing.

Franklin, 30, whose personnel records were subpoenaed, no longer works in state government. He lives in Washington, where he is a free-lance writer for the liberal policy magazine The American Prospect. He could not be reached for comment last night.

Michael Sarbanes, Townsend's deputy chief of staff for policy, said Franklin worked in the lieutenant governor's office as a researcher and speechwriter until about a year ago. A former co-worker said Franklin worked for Townsend's office since at least 1998, although he was paid through the state police budget.

Sarbanes said Franklin left on good terms and that he knew of nothing improper about Franklin's state employment.

Sharon Benzil McCann, a state police deputy counsel, said Franklin's personnel file had been copied and turned over to the FBI agents who served the subpoena. She said she did not know what Franklin's duties were with state police but that he was not a contract or grant employee.

The federal probe has focused closely on how and why staff members were hired at the crime-control agency and the work they did. It was unclear last night whether Franklin had any ties to that office.

In the subpoena to state police, federal agents asked for all records "showing the source of funds used to pay" Franklin.

The grand jury, sitting in U.S. District Court in Baltimore, has requested personnel and grant records from university officials. In an arrangement one university official has called unusual - but agency officials call cost-effective - a number of state crime-control workers have been paid under federal grants awarded to the University of Maryland.

University spokesman George Cathcart said the school's attorney, Jack T. Roach, delivered thousands of pages of records to the grand jury yesterday along with the computer used by one former worker, Margaret T. Burns.

Burns, a former communications chief for the crime-control office, has said that she was assigned for several months last year to compile a database of all grants awarded by the agency as a tool to help assess Townsend's political strengths and liabilities.

The agency has released a partial printout of the database; the computer could contain the entire file as well as all e-mail between Burns and her supervisors about that project and others.

Stephen P. Amos, director of the crime-control office, has said there was no political strategy behind the project.

hoSun staff writer Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

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