Elections board head refutes leak allegation

Chairman denies giving Lamone charges to media, political motive for ouster

September 12, 2004|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

The chairman of the Maryland Board of Elections denied yesterday that he leaked the confidential charges against Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone to the news media and defended himself against her accusation that his attempt to remove her is politically motivated.

Gilles W. Burger, a Republican who was appointed to the board in 2000 and became chairman last year, said Lamone was wrong when she testified in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court that he only became dissatisfied with her performance after meeting with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s staff last year.

"Absolutely no way. I have been troubled with her performance since I was on the board," Burger said. "It just so happens I became chairman at that time, and I felt responsible to make sure the office was running as it should be."

The board decided a week ago to forward charges against Lamone to an administrative law judge for review and to suspend her with pay while they are investigated, a move that has drawn fire from Democrats who say it is politically motivated.

Lamone was in court Friday seeking an injunction to reverse her suspension. A ruling is expected tomorrow.

Burger said he met with members of the governor's staff about a year ago. He had just become chairman and wanted to meet some of the officials in the administration, he said.

At the time, as Lamone testified, a report questioning the security of the state's new electronic voting machines was receiving public attention, and administration officials expressed concern about it, Burger said.

But her testimony that the governor's staff told Burger they were "uncomfortable" with her is untrue, he said.

"Her performance was no part of the discussion," Burger said.

In her testimony and afterward, Lamone complained about a report in The Washington Post detailing the board's charges against her. She and her attorneys implied that the leak came from the state board.

Burger denied it. He said he and the assistant attorneys general working with the board have copies of the charges, but he said he hasn't even given them to other members of the board.

"It wasn't me," he said. "I would have nothing to gain."

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