Cleared Ex-Official Seeks Restitution From Md.
Tuesday, October 25, 2005
A former Maryland official who was charged as a result of a federal probe launched during Kathleen Kennedy Townsend's campaign for governor, only later to be cleared, has asked the state to reimburse him for more than $193,000 in legal fees.
Stephen P. Amos, 46, was the only person indicted in the long-running investigation, accused of misallocating grant money at an anti-crime agency overseen by Townsend (D) when she was lieutenant governor in 2002. A federal judge, at the request of prosecutors, dismissed the indictment in January, ending a probe that Townsend once denounced as "political garbage."
Amos, 46, said yesterday that the investigation has had a ruinous effect on his life, leaving him unemployed and struggling as a consultant. He noted that he was never accused of benefiting personally from what prosecutors said was his misconduct as director of the Governor's Office of Crime Control Prevention, and he described himself as "an honest man who's paid an incredibly high price for being a public servant."
"I was absolutely, unconditionally exonerated," he said. "The case was dismissed, and my record was expunged because it was so meritless."
The state Board of Public Works can reimburse the cost of legal fees for state employees who are indicted and later cleared if the conduct at issue occurred in their official capacity and if it is determined that they acted in good faith. Requests for reimbursement are reviewed by the state attorney general's office and, if they meet the statutory requirements, are forwarded to the board for consideration.
Assistant Attorney General Margaret Ann Nolan, chief of the civil litigation division, confirmed that the agency had certified that Amos "discharged his responsibilities in good faith." Public Works officials said that the request is not scheduled to be heard at the board's next meeting, Nov. 2, but that it could be added later.
In March 2004, a federal grand jury accused Amos of improperly using grant money to pay the salaries of more than 40 people, including 10 who worked for Townsend, among them her deputy chief of staff and several speechwriters.
When the probe came to light in summer 2002, Townsend's opponent, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), said he believed then-U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio had uncovered a "political slush fund" that was "dedicated to Townsend's election." Townsend accused DiBiagio of trying to help his fellow Republican, who later that year defeated her in the governor's race.
DiBiagio left office at the end of last year, and his interim replacement, Allen F. Loucks, later announced that he would not pursue the case, citing a 1989 legal opinion written for the federal government that dealt with the spending of federal grant money. The legal opinion, which Loucks said was recently discovered by prosecutors, was "likely to raise reasonable doubt" that Amos knowingly misspent $6.3 million in federal grant money on the salaries of agency employees and Townsend staff members, Loucks said in a statement at the time.
Yesterday, Amos's attorney, Gregg L. Bernstein, said Amos's case qualifies for reimbursement. "What he was accused of related entirely to what he did as a public official," Bernstein said.