Miller says he won't ask Currie to step down

August 27, 2008|By Gadi Dechter and David Nitkin | Gadi Dechter and David Nitkin,

DENVER - The president of the Maryland Senate said yesterday that Sen. Ulysses Currie's work for a regional grocery chain should be investigated by the General Assembly, but Sen. Thomas V. Mike Miller dismissed speculation that he would ask the Prince George's County Democrat to step down from his leadership post.

"Senator Currie, in my opinion, is guilty of making a terrible mistake," said Miller, who is attending the Democratic National Convention here. "Knowing him, I believe it was absent-mindedness. Still, he lobbied the government on behalf of a private entity for personal profit."

The FBI's public corruption squad is investigating whether Lanham-based Shoppers Food and Pharmacy paid Currie to use the prestige of his office to secure favorable legislation and action by state agencies.

Currie, chairman of the Budget and Taxation Committee, did not disclose his employment with Shoppers in ethics filings with the state as required.

State documents and an affidavit filed in relation to the case show that Currie engaged in dozens of meetings and conversations with state officials in an effort to help the grocery chain in its dealings with several agencies.

"It is certainly something that will be undertaken by a legislative ethics committee," Miller said. "And I think that he needs to be allowed to explain exactly what occurred."

A co-chairman of the General Assembly's joint ethics committee said the panel has not decided whether to take up Currie's potential ethics violations.

"We have not discussed this" since news of a federal probe on Currie emerged in May, said Del. Brian K. McHale, a Baltimore Democrat. "I was of the impression that we would wait until the investigation has concluded and decide from there whether there is any basis for any action."

Currie and his attorneys have declined to comment on the matter.

Despite his censure of Currie's actions, Miller again dismissed rumors yesterday that he would ask his political ally to step down as head of the Senate committee that oversees the state budget.

"Senator Currie is going to remain chairman ... through all of these difficult budget negotiations," Miller said, referring to the problems that could be caused by anticipated state revenue shortfalls. "And if, in fact, he is charged by the federal government, then we will look at it again."

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