Regional Digest


April 13, 2005|By From staff reports

In Maryland

State employee gets four months in bribery scheme

A Garrett County woman will spend four months in prison for taking bribes from Stone Cold Chemicals -- the stiffest punishment so far in the investigation of state employees who bought cleaning and maintenance supplies at exorbitant prices, the state attorney general's office said yesterday.

Lori Hare of Grantsville was ordered to serve four months of a two-year prison term and to pay a $1,000 fine after she pleaded guilty to taking bribes from the company. Hare, 34, is the third former state employee to admit taking bribes from the company.

The former employee at the State Highway Administration's maintenance shop in Accident ordered $22,000 worth of supplies at prices up to 12 times market value, authorities said. In return, Hare accepted hundreds of dollars in gift certificates from Wal-Mart and Lowe's.

Assembly approves bill extending life of gift cards

Consumers with gift cards or gift certificates from Maryland retailers won't have to worry that their money will quickly expire, under legislation passed by the General Assembly.

The bill would prohibit a retail gift card from expiring within four years of purchase. Banks that issue gift cards, on the other hand, would have to disclose fees and terms on the card.

Sen. Katherine A. Klausmeier, a Baltimore County Democrat who introduced gift-card bills for three years in a row, said support has grown along with the sale of cards. This year, state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer testified on behalf of the legislation, saying he was outraged to discover that fees ate into the value of his gift card.

If Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. signs the bill, the law would take effect for cards and certificates sold beginning July 2006.

Biotechnology incentives approved by legislature

Two bills that could further the growth of biotechnology business in Maryland were passed unanimously by the legislature and await the governor's signature.

The Research and Development Tax Credit continues a program that expired last year. It offers $6 million worth of tax credits to start-up companies.

The Biotechnology Investment Incentive Act provides tax credits -- limited to $50,000 for individuals and $250,000 for institutions -- to investors in early-stage life science businesses. Both bills were lauded by technology business supporters.

3 transit systems in region to share security grants

Transit systems in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia will receive $12 million in federal grant money to protect themselves against potential attackers, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said yesterday.

The allocation for the Baltimore-Washington region -- one of $141 million in grants announced by the federal agency -- will be divided among the Maryland Transit Administration, Virginia Railway Express and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The precise share for each agency won't be known until completion of a vulnerability assessment, said Earl Lewis, a Maryland assistant secretary of transportation.

He said Maryland's share will be used for security improvements involving the MARC train service, the Baltimore subway and the city's light rail system.

In Allegany County

Frostburg State head plans to retire in 2006

FROSTBURG -- Frostburg State University President Catherine R. Gira -- the longest-tenured leader in Maryland's 11-campus public university system -- announced her retirement yesterday.

Gira, who has been at the university since 1991, said she will step down June 30, 2006. During her tenure, enrollment has increased by nearly 300 students, and the school's endowment has grown from $1 million to nearly $13 million. Before becoming president, Gira was provost and a faculty member at the University of Baltimore.

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