Four men who served as aides to Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel should not be reimbursed for about $15,000 in legal fees incurred during the 1975 political corruption investigation that led to Mandel's conviction and suspension, a special committee has recommended.
The committee, set up by the Maryland Board of Public Works, says the claims should be rejected because the aides' attroneys "bargained for and obtained immunity for their clients." The committee's report is scheduled to be reviewed today by the board, which must approve any unbudgeted state expenses.
The committee did recommend payment of legal fees for Mandel chief of staff Frank A. DeFilippo and administrative officer Hans Mayer. Neither received a grant of immunity from prosecution when they appeared before the grand jury investigating corruption allegations.
Mandel was convicted in 1977 in federal court on charges of accepting thousands of dollars in favors from close friends in exchange for using his office to influence racetrack legislation favorable to their business interests.
The four aides whose claims for legal fees were rejected by the committee -- Maurice Wyatt, Ronald Schreiber, Michael Silver and Frank Harris -- were all legislative lobbysits for Mandel during the peroid covered by the investigation.
The four men asked the state to pay their legal fees, asserting that they were called to testify in connection with their official duties. The works board, made up of the governor, state treasurer and comptroller, set up the special committee to study the request because such legal representation is not specifically defined by state statutes.
Harris, close personal friend of Mandel who served as an administration lobbyist during legislative sessions, said last night he may sue the board ig it refuses to honor his claim for more than $5,000 in legal fees, charged at the rate of $100 an hour by his lawyer.
"I was an employe of the governor," said Harris, who is now a locomotive engineer. "If I owned legal fees coming from that office it shouldn't be my responsibility to pay them. I didn't do anything wrong."
The chief reason cited by the commitee for denying the claims was the immunity from prosecution that the four former aides received from federal prosecutors. The committee stated this "is not an action which the (Maryland) attorney general could, or would have taken on their behalf."
The attorney general's office is authorized by statute to represent state employes named as defendants in civil, but not criminal cases. Even if the office could cerve as counsel for an employe in a criminal case, according to one state legal officer, "it would be unseemly" to try to obtain immunity for the client.
In the case of Harris and Wyatt, the committee said, even in reimbursement was warranted, the claims for fees were improperly documented and estimates of the time spent by lawyers "appear to be grossly disproportionate, and well over twice the amount of time one reasonably would expect to have been expended on such a matter."
Harris said he was merely forwarding the charges sent to him by his lawyer.
Wyatt could not be reached for comment.
Mayer, who said he was called before the grand jury only as a custodian of state records, stated his legal fees were about $1.200. When he sought counsel from the attorney general's office, he was told to hire a private lawyer and bill the state.
DeFilippo, who was given the same adivce, said his legal fees amounted to about $2,800. However, the committee has approved a bill for $1,700 according to a source familiar with the committee's work.
DeFilippo said he does not understand the reason for the difference between his claim and the committee's recommendation.