The chief counsel to the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention is actively campaigning for a state Senate seat, saying that a law prohibiting those who work in agencies funded by federal money from running for office does not apply to him.
Dilip Paliath has printed campaign literature, launched a Web site and manned a booth at the Towsontown Spring Festival to support his run as a Republican in the 42nd District, which includes Towson, Lutherville and Timonium.
He said he has concluded that the federal law commonly called the Hatch Act doesn't apply to him because he has no role in overseeing the $17 million in federal grant funds his agency receives each year.
"I don't see it as an issue because I don't do anything with federal money," he said.
This week, another Ehrlich administration official, Phillip D. Bissett, gave up his job as head of the state's commuter rail system after receiving an advisory opinion saying he could not hold the post while running for Anne Arundel County executive because of the Hatch Act, which limits political activity by government employees.
Paliath said he would consider requesting an opinion from the federal Office of Special Counsel about his situation.
Jervis S. Finney, legal counsel to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said yesterday that he has spoken with Paliath and others about the general principles of the law but has not investigated any specific cases.
He said that, in general, the act applies to state employees only if their duties involve administering federal grant funds. He said he will continue to examine the law and will provide an advisory for state employees about the application of the act.
Last month, Paliath, who earns $80,159 in his state job, wrote letters on personal stationery to Towson-area community associations offering to speak about public safety issues. He said he spoke to two groups but the speeches were neither campaign nor work activities - he didn't mention his run for Senate, and he spoke to the groups after work.
Paliath seeks to challenge state Sen. James Brochin, a first-term Democrat.