Davitt picked as new state prosecutor

Job focuses on campaign finance, political corruption

November 19, 2010|By Annie Linskey, The Baltimore Sun

Gov. Martin O'Malley has named Emmet C. Davitt, an attorney who represents the state's utility regulatory body, to be the state's next political corruption watchdog.

Davitt, 53, will replace Robert A. Rohrbaugh, an appointee of former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Rohrbaugh announced earlier this year that he would not seek reappointment.

Davitt said Friday he will start work "in a few weeks" and thanked O'Malley for his "trust and confidence." He declined to talk about his prosecutorial philosophy or any changes he anticipates in the office. The appointment requires Senate confirmation.

In a statement, O'Malley praised Davitt for possessing "sound judgment," "integrity" and "broad experience."

Davitt studied law at the University of Maryland at night while working during the day as a guidance counselor and history teacher at Good Counsel High School in Wheaton.

Last year, he gave up one of his kidneys as part of a multidonor exchange that benefited an 8-year-old boy who had been taught by his wife, Julie.

He declined Thursday to discuss the donation. In an interview published on the University of Maryland Medical Center's website, he said he the experience of participating in an exchange that resulted in several patients receiving kidneys gave him "goose bumps."

"So many times in life you think about doing something like this and the moment passes," he said. "I didn't want to let that happen."

The state prosecutor handles campaign finance investigations and charges of political corruption.

The office can come under considerable pressure from politicians and lawyers, as it did last year when Rohrbaugh, a Republican, was accused of conducting a witch hunt when he brought theft charges against sitting Mayor Sheila Dixon, a Democrat. Dixon stepped down as a part of a plea deal after a jury found her guilty of taking gift cards intended for the poor.

Davitt, a Catonsville resident and father of four, has supported Democratic politicians, making about two dozen small political donations since 2002, according to campaign finance records. Donations include $468 to O'Malley in seven checks.

Former bosses describe Davitt as a soft-spoken and likable attorney who uses his position and power judiciously.

"You can be a hard-ass prosecutor all the time and try to stick it to people because it is fun, but that doesn't always solve the problem or serve the real public interest," said Public Service Commission Chairman Douglas R. M. Nazarian, who hired Davitt to in 2007.

Nazarian said Davitt has an "instinctive" sense about when and how to press issues in order to get the best results. He credited Davitt with deftly investigating complaints about persistent BGE outages in Bowie, saying his work led to the utility's spending tens of millions trimming trees in that area. He said Davitt's probe of Verizon led to the PSC's ordering the phone company to improve service quality in Maryland.

Much of Davitt's white-collar courtroom experience came from his eight years working for the attorney general's office under O'Malley's father-in-law, J. Joseph Curran Jr.

"He's a very, very good lawyer," Curran said.

Curran said the experience he gained investigating and litigating white-collar insurance crimes will translate well to pursuing political corruption cases.

"When you commit a fraud, you hope never to be caught," Curran said. "If you don't have an eyewitness, it is laborious tracking of improper activity."

Davitt continued in the role under Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler, who described him as "very thoughtful, honest and soft-spoken but hard-charging."

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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