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  •   Exum Inquiry Put on Hold

    By Robert E. Pierre
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Wednesday, March 18, 1998; Page B01

    The Maryland General Assembly's Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics plans to review the activities of a Prince George's County legislator who lobbied county officials on behalf of the company where he works at the same time he oversaw bills affecting the county government.

    But lawmakers said they would not be able to begin their inquiry into the activities of Del. Nathaniel Exum (D), chairman of the Prince George's county delegation in the House of Delegates, until after the legislative session ends April 13.

    "Any time you have a report in the paper of ethical impropriety, the committee will always take it up," said Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr. (D-Baltimore), an ethics committee co-chairman. "I suspect we will not be able to get to this until the session is over."

    Sen. Michael J. Collins (D-Baltimore County), the committee's other co-chair, said senators and delegates on the committee are far too busy heading into the final weeks of the session to conduct a "thorough, fair and objective" investigation of alleged ethics violations by any more legislators.

    The Maryland Republican Party yesterday assailed the decision to delay an Exum inquiry. "This is outrageous," said Joyce Lyons Terhes, chairman of the Maryland Republican Party. "Why should it fall to the end of the agenda? What's more important than to restore the trust of voters in Maryland government?"

    "For the good of the State of Maryland, it needs to be looked at now to get rid of that cloud," Terhes added. "Clear him if there was no wrongdoing, but get on with it."

    The Washington Post reported this week that Exum, 58, has lobbied Prince George's County government to secure a reduction in the price his employer, Joseph Smith & Sons, pays to dump waste in county landfills. The lobbying took place as Exum was overseeing bills affecting county government. Top county officials said they were uncomfortable with Exum's lobbying effort because they need his help this session in the General Assembly.

    Exum has refused to comment on his lobbying, and did so again yesterday.

    Legislative ethics have consumed Annapolis during the current session. Already this year, a senator has been expelled and a delegate has resigned amid allegations that they used their offices for personal gain.

    At the county level, two Prince George's County Council members questioned why Exum's company was paying lower rates -- about one-fourth the normal dumping fee of $40 a ton -- than other companies.

    County officials have said that the material, called fluff, is beneficial because it can be used as a nightly landfill cover.

    Prince George's County Council member Walter H. Maloney (D-Beltsville) sent a letter to environmental resources director, Samuel E. Wynkoop Jr., requesting a list of all individuals who have been charged a lesser fee.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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