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In Brief

Tuesday, March 8, 2005; Page B03


Republicans Back D.C. Voting Rights

Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) and three House Republicans released a letter to colleagues yesterday pointing out that 82 percent of Americans support equal voting rights for the District in Congress, according to a recent national poll.

Norton and Reps. Thomas M. Davis III (Va.), Dana Rohrabacher (Calif.) and Ralph Regula (Ohio) each sponsored a bill that would address D.C. voting representation in Congress. Their "Dear Colleague" letter cited a Jan. 14-16 survey of 1,007 Americans by KRC Research, a nonpartisan opinion research firm, for DC Vote, an advocacy group.

None of the four bills is expected to move to the floor this year, Norton said in a statement, but the four sponsors are working together to show members "the strong support of their own constituents for D.C voting rights." Even bipartisan support "cannot bear fruit . . . unless we do our homework nationally to link members of Congress with the American majority that is already with us," Norton said.


Racist Graffiti in St. Mary's Decried

A racist message spray-painted in the snow last week in St. Mary's County has called a small community in Southern Maryland to action, with local leaders denouncing the epithets and police promising to capture the perpetrators.

Nearly 200 people filled the pews at Zion United Methodist Church just south of Lexington Park yesterday to listen to speakers condemn the spray-painting, which was found Feb. 27 on the snow outside the Minority Business Alliance.

One message said "KKK." One used a racial epithet and referred to killing African Americans. Police said they suspect the same culprit spray-painted a swastika on the door of a black man's car nearby.

William Bowman, president of the NAACP in St. Mary's County, who organized yesterday's meeting, said the crimes were "designed to hurt as many people as possible."

Police said they have no leads but are confident they will solve the case. "A person who does something like this is bound to brag about it, and we'll hear about it," said Maryland State Police Lt. Brian Cedar.

Jail Paid Contractors Twice, Audit Finds

State corrections officials at the Baltimore jail paid private contractors twice for the same service on at least four occasions, overpaid music and church groups and used questionable accounting practices to circumvent state bidding regulations, according to a state audit released yesterday.

Officials with the Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, which runs the Baltimore jail, paid four vendors a total of $4,000 in 2002 and 2003. When the payments were intercepted by the state comptroller's office because the companies owed the state money, the agency paid the vendors through a separate fund.

The original, intercepted payments were then made to the companies after they settled their state debts, according to the audit, by the Department of Legislative Services. The agency also paid excessively for "inmate entertainment events" and did not follow state bidding requirements, the audit found.

The questionable payments were made at the direction of LaMont W. Flanagan, former commissioner of the division, according to the audit. Flanagan, appointed to the post in 1991, was fired in May 2003.

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