Some people expect the new Maryland special prosecutor to be a miracle worker. Others say it will be a miracle if the special prosecutor's office will be able to accomplish anything at all.
Gerald Glass is the man who as the holder of the newly created office state prosecutor is assigned to clean up political corruption wherever knowledgeable lawyers say he does not have the staff, the budget or the public support to do it.
"I fear a year from now people are going to ask 'Where are the miracles,'" says Baltimore County State's attorney Sandra O'Connor.
"I hate to see that happen to him."
Glass' office was created in 1976 when Maryland residents still were reeling from scandals that had toppled one vice president and several of Maryland's lessre political lights.
While voters were wondering why U.S. - and not local - authorities had done all th housecleaning, the legislature served up the idea of an independent State prosecutor. It was ballyhooded as Maryland's homegrown answer to political corruption.
The office essentially was handed the task that previously had been done by federal prosecutors - ferreting out official corruption wherever it occurred in the state.
It is a task that the U.S. Attorney's office in Baltimore was able to tackle with the help of a staff of three skilled lawyers and unlimited resources, including the Internal Revernue Service, the Postal Service, and the FBI.
Glass, who opended the office this year, has at his disposal one secretary, one lawyer and one investigator. He'll get three more full-time staff members in July. He can call on Maryland State Police when he needs investigate help, and his first full year's budget is $143,000 - a budget that O'Connor labels "ridiculously low."
Another lawyer wonders where the public was when Glass needed a bigger budget "Did the public go around public doesn't even know the issue exists."
The lawyer, who holds a sensitive government position and prefers annymity sees Glass as a man "caught between an attorney general who wants to control him, local state's attorneys who do not like him, and a legislature that created him out of expediency, but has no logterm commitment to support him.
Some, of course, would loudly dispute that assessment. Senate President Steny Hoyer (D-Prince Georg's), who sponsored the legislation creating the office, says the first year's budget is just a beginning . . . not reflective of the legislature's commitment to the office."
"I'm convinced the next budget will better reflect what he needs to carry out his mandate. The legislature is committed to his doing just what we said he would do," Hoyer says.
Glass goes out of his way not to offend anyone as he attempts to down-play the office's problems.
When pressed, he acknowledges his budget is 'very small," but quickly adds, "I would hope if I need more money I could obtain it."
As to thefac that his office was placed "for administrative purposes" within the attorney general's - a facet of the legislation which the attorney general insisted - Glass says, "It has been helpful to be here while we're new."
Still, Glass backed a bill in the last legislative session that would have made his office entirely independent. He did not get his wish.
Glass does not even chide the local state's attorneys, some of whom vehemently opposed creation of the office when it was first proposed.
"Many of those who were most vocal against it have come forward with the position that they'll come forward with the position that they'll do everything to cooperate with the office now," says Glass, who sees his office as a "supplementation to theirs."
"I'm sure lots of them were just waiting to see the personality of the person who assumed the office."
In Glass, they got a lawyer who is described by his colleagues as "low keyed, competent, above all ethical."
"He is not the Barnet Skolnik, aggressive I'll-get-them-in-the-end type prosecurtor," says O'Connor, referring to the flamboyant assistant U.S. attorney who led the team that prosecuted from Vice President Sprio T. Agnew and suspended Gov. Marvin Mandel.
Glass, 35, has done some work in the U.S! defender's office in Baltimore, but spent most of his career as a prosecutor - from his first job after law school as a prosecutor in the Baltimore city courts to two years as head of the major frauds unit in the Baltimore City State's Attorney's office.
Now, as Maryland's first state prosecutor, Glass says he is pleased that one basic problem he faced as head of that unit has been remedied by the General Assembly. Lawmakers last session passed several bills to strengthen the state's shaky laws on extortion and bribery, as they apply to public officials.
Still, the legislature did not go all the way i n making changes sought by Glass and local prosecutors.
A bill that would have made important changes in state immunity statutes died in a Senate committee.
The legislature also passed up an opportunity to extend to three year's the one-year statute of limitations on several political crimes - ones that prosecutors maintain are virtually impossible to investigate in less than three years. Instead, the lawmakers increased the statute limiation to two years.
There also remains a subtle problem within the very legislation that created the state prosecutor's office.
After the state prosecutor investigates a crime, he must turn his findings over to the local state's attorney who has jurisdiction to prosecute. The state's attorney may file charges within 45 days, or the case goes back to Glass's jurisdiction.
"To allow a state's attorney to take away a case he has made undermines his effectiveness," says the U.S. Attorney for Maryland, Russell T. Baker Jr.
"Every tactical decision, every small detail . . . is cumulatively important in trying that case. No one will ever know a case as well as the guy who makes it."
Glass agrees that this could create problems, but he says he hopes he will be able to jointly prosecute cases with the local state's attorneys.
Perhaps the problems that many see built into the legislation reflect its torturous route through the General Assembly, where it first was passed in 1975.
At one point during that session, as the bill narrowly survived at attempt to gut it, one senator remarked that getting it through the General Assembly was like "trying to get a whale up the Amazon River with a little school of piranha that keep nibbling at it."
The legislation made it - only to be declared unconstitutional by the Maryland Court of Appeals. It was passed again in 1976, this time with accompanying constitutional amendments. Voters ratified the amenments in November 1976 and, after a long search, Glass was appointed in November 1977.
Now, in a samll suite of offices at One South Calvert in Baltimore, Glass will attempt to live up to the legislature's mandates.
Baker says Glass is "a capable guy in a very difficult position. "He needs some successes, a couple of convictions to establish a track record and his credibility."
Montgomery County State's attorney Andrew Sonner says it's too early to judge what the office can do.
"I don't think it will accomplish all its proponents said it would, but that shouldn't be the measuring stick," Sonner says. "He can do something a lot less and still be entirely successful."