Defending her job with Comcast, first lady Kendel Ehrlich said yesterday that she was unaware of any contracts the cable company has with the state or of any authority state regulators have over it.
Ehrlich, speaking on WBAL-AM, said she has earned the same $55,000 salary over the nearly 10-year period she has been employed by the firm.
"Being married to an elected official ... shouldn't prevent me from being able to keep my hand in some profession one way or another for my future," she said. "If it came to that, I would be pretty upset."
The first lady disclosed her salary Tuesday amid questions by lawmakers and others about whether her job with the cable company constitutes a conflict of interest for her husband, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
She said she started as a part-time legal consultant for Comcast in 1997 at the behest of the then-head of the company's Mid-Atlantic division, Stephen Burch. Her husband was a congressman at the time.
Kendel Ehrlich went on the payroll in 2001 and continued working for the company after her husband became governor. She stopped working for several months in 2003 and 2004 when she gave birth to the couple's second son, Joshua.
She returned to work in 2004 and produced 16 half-hour anti-drug programs available to subscribers to Comcast's On Demand service.
The first lady said she believes her job constitutes no conflict of interest because Comcast negotiates cable franchises with local governments, not the state. She said she was unsure whether the company is regulated by the Maryland Public Service Commission.
"Technically, there's no state business whatsoever with Comcast," Kendel Ehrlich said. "And they've never talked to me about that because my projects have always been something else."
According to the Maryland comptroller's office, the state has paid Comcast $2,652,278 since July 1, 2004. Most of the money was spent by University System of Maryland campuses.
Comcast has made scores of filings with the Public Service Commission on regulatory matters in the past several years, most of them by a subsidiary, Comcast Digital Phone, a review of those records shows.
Kendel Ehrlich has made drug abuse prevention a major focus of her activities as first lady. She said on WBAL yesterday that her show helps Comcast fulfill its public service requirements.
She said she believes news reports about her employment were generated by people looking to prevent her husband from being re-elected.
"I guess I'm on the checklist of people in the world down here of getting Ehrlich," she said. "I think it's my turn. I'm up."