Curran asks board to consider paying Amos' legal fees

Former head of crime-control office had been indicted after a federal inquiry, but charges were later dropped

May 24, 2006|By GREG GARLAND | GREG GARLAND,SUN REPORTER

Saying that "simple justice demands it," Maryland's attorney general has asked a state board to consider paying nearly $200,000 in legal fees incurred by a former state agency head who was the subject of a lengthy federal investigation that ended with charges against him dropped.

In a letter dated May 12 and obtained through a public records request, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. wrote that Stephen P. Amos, former head of the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, qualifies for reimbursement and that his request should be heard.

But a spokesman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., one of three members of the state board that disburses funds, said he is aware of no plans to put the item on the board's agenda in the near future.

"The governor asked the legal staff to give scrutiny to the matter, and that remains ongoing," said Henry Fawell, Ehrlich's spokesman.

In addition to Ehrlich, the Board of Public Works is made up of Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp. The item would have to be put on the agenda by Ehrlich's budget secretary or by agreement of two of the board's members. Kopp has said Amos should get a hearing; Schaefer has not commented on the matter.

Amos headed a state agency that oversaw federal crime-fighting grants during the administration of Democratic Gov. Parris N. Glendening. Amos became the target of a high-profile federal investigation during the 2002 gubernatorial election campaign.

Ehrlich, a Republican, used the federal probe in his campaign, calling it evidence of a "culture of corruption" in Annapolis under Glendening and Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, the Democratic nominee.

Federal prosecutors spent months investigating the grants office and indicted Amos on charges of using too much grant money for administrative purposes. They later dropped the charges, and a judge expunged Amos' record in the case last year.

Jervis S. Finney, the governor's chief legal counsel, has said he disagrees with the decision by federal prosecutors to drop the charges. He has criticized Curran's office for failing to investigate thoroughly before concluding that Amos qualifies to be reimbursed.

Finney, a former U.S. attorney, contacted some former grants control office workers this year about their work. He also has sent numerous e-mail messages to Curran's staff suggesting people to interview and records to examine.

In his letter to the Board of Public Works, Curran said that no new information has surfaced that would cause his office to change its opinion - issued in September - that Amos meets legal requirements to be reimbursed for his legal fees.

Curran said the legislation authorizing such reimbursements was "designed to save state officials and employees from financial ruin as a result of criminal investigations and charges that proved to be unfounded."

Curran added, "The duty to make the determination whether the employee discharged his or her public responsibilities in good faith was, and is, vested in this office. We have made that determination. ... Simple justice requires that the employee's request be considered by the board and acted upon."

greg.garland@baltsun.com

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