License Is Restored for Station in Pr. George's

Sen. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's) has held up confirmation of the state police chief nominee.
Sen. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's) has held up confirmation of the state police chief nominee. (By James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post)
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By John Wagner and Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Maryland State Police last week restored the license of an automotive inspection station in Prince George's County that was revoked four years ago after authorities had said that it was issuing certificates for safety inspections that it did not perform.

The reinstatement occurred as a Prince George's senator who had been lobbying for the restored license was holding up the Senate confirmation of Col. Terrence Sheridan to lead the state police agency. Sen. Nathaniel Exum (D-Prince George's) has urged the agency for several years to reissue the license to Hilltop Fleet Services, which is in his district.

A vote on Sheridan, who was nominated by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D), has been rescheduled for today amid concerns voiced by Exum and other African American senators about what they say is lack of diversity on the force and allegations of racial profiling in traffic stops.

Sheridan said yesterday that the decision to restore Hilltop's status had been set in motion under his predecessor, who started the process to grant Hilltop a probationary license. Letting the station resume inspections seemed "fundamentally fair," Sheridan said, given that the state police agency has no policy on how long revocations should last.

"It strikes me that if someone makes a mistake and redeems themselves, we in government have to look at that," said Sheridan, who has been serving in an acting capacity since June, pending Senate confirmation. He did not elaborate on how the station had changed.

Capt. Robert F. Bambary, commander of the Automotive Safety Enforcement Division, which licenses the state's roughly 1,640 inspection stations, said the handling of Hilltop was unusual.

"I was under orders to put them back in the program, from my boss and from his boss and then up the line," Bambary said.

Asked how often that happens, Bambary said: "Normally, never."

"It's my understanding that [Senator Exum] contacted my superiors," Bambary said.

Sheridan confirmed that Exum has lobbied him on behalf of the service station but played down the senator's impact, saying that he last heard from him on the matter in July. Sheridan said he was unaware of whether Hilltop was a factor in the delay of his confirmation vote. "I suggest you ask Senator Exum," said Sheridan, who previously led the police force in Baltimore County.

Exum declined two attempts in person by Washington Post reporters to discuss issues related to this report and did not return a message left at his Senate office in Annapolis.

The Senate has made a practice this year of confirming people nominated by O'Malley in batches of a dozen or more, with a single vote taken to confirm all nominees.

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