Former assistant U.S. attorney named state prosecutor

Six-year appointment is subject to approval by Maryland Senate

August 26, 2004|By Greg Garland and David Nitkin | Greg Garland and David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Gov. Robert. L Ehrlich Jr. appointed yesterday a former federal prosecutor from Montgomery County with Republican Party ties to serve as Maryland's state prosecutor.

Robert A. Rohrbaugh, 57, will head an office charged with the politically sensitive task of investigating allegations of misconduct by public officials and employees, including violations of state election and ethics laws.

An assistant U.S. attorney from 1974 to 1980, Rohrbaugh succeeds Stephen Montanarelli, who died in May.

Rohrbaugh said he's looking forward to his new job, which pays $119,600 a year. The appointment is for six years and is subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

"I think it's an exciting position," he said.

The state prosecutor's office, which was created by the legislature in 1976, has a reputation for being relatively weak, with no subpoena authority - something that is regarded by many prosecutors as a crucial investigative tool.

"Whether the statute itself leaves a little bit to be desired, that's something I don't want to judge," Rohrbaugh said. "I always like to go into a new position with an open mind."

His colleagues in legal circles said he is a good choice for the job.

"I think that's a terrific appointment," said former U.S. Attorney George Beall. "Bob is an experienced practitioner, respected by his colleagues and genuinely admired by members of the judiciary."

Beall was U.S. attorney from 1970 to 1975 and hired Rohrbaugh to work in the prosecutor's office.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Dale Kelberman also said that Rohrbaugh is well-regarded in the legal community.

"I think he's a person of integrity, and that's what the job needs," said Kelberman, now a lawyer in private practice.

Former U.S. Attorney Jervis S. Finney, who is now Ehrlich's legal counsel, described Rohrbaugh as a "very capable" prosecutor.

Rohrbaugh went into private practice in Rockville after departing the federal prosecutor's office and specialized in product liability cases involving child restraints.

He briefly took leave from his law practice in 1997 to assist a congressional investigation into allegations of illegal contributions from foreign sources to former President Bill Clinton's re-election campaign.

Richard D. Bennett, a former chairman of Maryland's Republican Party and now a federal judge in Baltimore, was chief legal counsel to the congressional panel that was conducting the investigation until he resigned; Rohrbaugh served as deputy legal counsel.

Rohrbaugh said he worked for the House Government Reform Committee for six months.

"My focus was the investigation of the foreign sources of the money," he said.

Ehrlich chose Rohrbaugh from four names presented to him by a selection panel that included House and Senate appointees and a representative of the state bar association. The governor chose the chairman of the panel.

Rohrbaugh, who resides in Brinklow, just south of the Howard County line, said he has been president of the Montgomery County Republican Club.

He described it as a social club with about 25 members that gathers for dinners three or four times a year.

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