Last year a Montgomery County Circuit Court judge dropped a case against a contractor accused of bribing employees of the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission.
The judge said he couldn't rule on the contractors's innocence or guilt because there was no law forbidding the crime. The Maryland Court of Appeals ruled in November that the lower court was right. The statute forbidding the bribery of officials explicitly lists state, county and municipal officials but no multi-county officials.
The WSSC takes care of water and sewer for Prince George's and Montgomery Counties. Hence it is a bi-county agency and out of the reach of the current state law.
To "cover up this loophole" a bill was quickly written and it was presented at a public hearing in Annapolis Tuesday. Only the bill's sponsor, Sen. Arthur Dorman (D-Prince George's), showed up to speak in favor of the legislation.
No one spoke against it. As one state official explained: "It was some embarrassment (to lose the case)."
Dorman's bill, which seems to have no opposition, simply adds the words "any bi-county or multi-county agency in the state" to the current bribery law. Dorman said that all the multi-county agencies, those in the Baltimore metropolitan area as well as the WSSC and other agencies for Prince George's and Montgomery Counties, support his bill.
"This is an emergency bill because we can't let this happen again," Dorman said.
Sen. J. Joseph Curran Jr. (D-Baltimore City), who heads the committee that held the hearing on Dorman's bill, predicted that the bill would pass the General Assembly easily and become law.
As Sen. Margaret C. Schweinhaut (D-Montgomery) said, "Who is going to speak out in favor of bribery?