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Md. State Senator Was Subject of Complaints By Ethics Commission

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By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, June 7, 2008

Sen. Ulysses Currie, who is under investigation by the FBI for a consulting relationship he did not disclose, was the subject of three complaints by the Maryland State Ethics Commission during the past 20 years for failing to file legally required annual financial disclosure statements on time.

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The latter two complaints, in 1996 and 2004, both resulted in Currie (D-Prince George's) agreeing to pay $250 in late fees, the maximum allowed under Maryland ethics law, and $100 payments in lieu of potential court costs.

Records of the cases, contained in ethics commission files in Annapolis, shed no light on Currie's relationship with Shoppers Food & Pharmacy, a grocery chain that has said it used Currie as an "outside consultant." But the documents make clear that Currie, now chairman of the powerful Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, has had a spotty record of compliance with disclosure rules during his two-decade career in the General Assembly.

In addition to the three late filings that prompted complaints, Currie filed several other annual reports after the April 30 deadline, according to ethics commission records. Currie did not disclose a relationship with Shoppers in any of the filings. Shoppers has declined to say when Currie's consulting began.

Neither Currie nor his attorney, Dale Kelberman, returned phone calls seeking comment yesterday.

Records related to Currie's disclosure lapses were among the items seized from his District Heights home during an FBI raid last week, according to an evidence log made public Thursday.

The Lanham headquarters of Shoppers also was raided, and federal prosecutors have issued a wide-ranging subpoena for documents and computer files from Currie's legislative and committee offices.

Prosecutors have taken records dealing with several of Shoppers' active projects across the state, including a grocery store at Mondawmin Mall in Baltimore, a liquor license for a Shoppers in College Park and correspondence with the State Highway Administration and Currie about intersection improvements at a store in Owings Mills.

The FBI has also expressed interest in media reports about an e-mail in which the state highway administrator told staff members that they should "expedite" approval of plans for a traffic light at a Shoppers Food & Pharmacy in Laurel because the project was "very important" to Currie.

The 188 members of the Maryland General Assembly are legally required to provide disclosure forms detailing financial interests, including property they own, gifts they have received and sources of employment. The instructions regarding employment include consulting as an activity that should be disclosed.

Since 1985, Maryland's ethics commission has taken action against 10 other legislators for problems with disclosure statements, according to commission records. Only two lawmakers besides Currie have been subject to more than one "public order" by the commission.

Robert A. Hahn, the commission's executive director, said it typically does not pursue penalties against lawmakers facing their first complaint for failing to file a disclosure form. Once the forms are filed, lawmakers are considered "cured," Hahn said. Records of the matter do not become public unless the lawmaker is subject to a second complaint. Currie, who was elected to the House of Delegates in 1986, was first subject to a complaint in 1989 for failing to file his 1988 financial disclosure statement on time.

He ran successfully for the Senate in 1994. In 1996, Currie was the subject of a second complaint for failing to file his 1995 financial disclosure statement on time, despite two reminder notices. Records of his settlement of that matter with the ethics commission noted that he had also "filed the last several financial disclosure forms after the April 30 deadline."

In 2004, a third complaint was filed against Currie for failing to file his 2003 disclosure statement on time. Ethics commission records say Currie acknowledged receiving "several reminder notices."

Copies of the order resolving the matter, for which Currie agreed to pay $350 in late fees and penalties, were sent to then-governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert) and William Somerville, the legislature's ethics counsel.

Staff writer Rosalind S. Helderman contributed to this report.

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