An electronic eavesdropping device was discovered Friday attached to the underside of a desk in an office of the Maryland State Highway Administration in Baltimore.
Administration officials said that no sensitive information was available in the particular office where the bug was found, although the Highway Administration deals on a daily basis with highway planning information that could be profitable to property owners and road contractors.
The bug was discovered when an employee in another action of the office began to pick up a telephone conversation over her radio.
Maryland State Police are trying to discover who placed the FM microphone transmitter, described as about half the size of a cigarette pack [TEXT ILLEGIBLE] restored from parking lots adjacent to the department's headquarters at W. Preston St. in Baltimore.
State officials contacted yesterday expressed puzzlement over why someone would bug the offices.
"The office is concerned with high way design. All they discuss is engineering information," said State Highway Administration Bernard Evans. I can't see any value in bugging the office to get that information."
Jerome W. Klasmeier, assistant secretary of the state's General Service Administration, said that what is discussed in the office is "a lot of bureaucratic information relating to reviews of plans for road design. There's no mystery to it. It's all public information because we have to hold public hearings before we can choose a plan."
Knowledge of state officials discussions of road plans could give land speculators and contractors an advantage in buying certain parcels of land or in negotiating for a higher price to land they already own.
However, Klasmeier said, "I can't imagine how (the information from the road review office) would help somebody bidding for a project. We're concerned about the bugging because we want to know who did it, but we have no fear any sensitive information was divulged."
The desk under which the bugging device was found is next to a file cabinet that separates the road review office and the condemnation office, which condemns land for highway construction.
The highway agency has been occupying offices on the first floor of the state building for about a year, Evans said. The building also contains part of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.