Members of a House of Delegates committee staged a rare revolt against their chairman today over a proposal that would require disclosure of any unusual withdrawals from several savings and loan associations last spring, and a state police trooper had to be called in to help quell the uproar.
Del. Frederick C. Rummage (D-Prince George's), chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee, summoned the officer to the panel's hearing room after committee members reacted angrily to a conference committee's agreement that he supported. The conference committee approved weakening the disclosure requirement that was included in legislation to rehabilitate Maryland's scandal-tarred savings and loan industry.
The trooper took no action against any of the committee members.
The legislation is again being studied by the House-Senate conference committee, which has only four days before the General Assembly adjourns to draft a compromise bill on which the two sides can agree.
Earlier in the day, Rummage, two other House negotiators and three state senators reached apparent agreement on the issues dividing them, including geographic and percentage limits on S&L investments and certain waivers for small thrift associations.
The two sides also hammered out language on the disclosure requirement, which in its original form passed by the Senate would have required Gov. Harry Hughes to compile a list of those public officials and family members who acted on "insider information" by withdrawing funds from "high-flying" savings and loans last spring before the industry crisis hit.
Maryland's system of private insurance for savings and loans collapsed last May in the wake of depositor runs, forcing several giant thrifts out of business and freezing thousands of deposits in the worst financial scandal in state history.
The S&L reform bill being considered by the conference committee is designed to prevent the weak government oversight and industry abuses that led to the crisis, and the Senate included the disclosure requirement in the bill when it considered the measure last month.
Since then, the requirement has been changed three times at the insistence of Rummage and the other House conferees, who say they fear it could cause a "witch hunt" against innocent persons.
The most recent version of the disclosure rule, endorsed in conference today, would require a relatively small number of public officials to file affidavits with the State Ethics Commission if they withdrew more than $10,000 from an S&L.
State officials and private persons who redeemed certificates of deposits worth $100,000 or more could be scrutinized by the Maryland state prosecutor, the ethics commission or the office of the state attorney general, all of whom conduct investigations in secret.
After the conference committee broke for the day, Rummage explained the S&L bill to his committee members, who promptly turned on their chairman.
"This does violence to the whole concept of disclosure," Del. Gene W. Counihan (D-Montgomery) said after the session with Rummage.
House Speaker Benjamin L. Cardin, who some delegates said they believe is the driving force behind the conferees' attempt to soften the disclosure rule, has sounded a note of caution about the conference committee's deliberations.
"No one wants to be accused of hiding anything, so it puts the legislature in a difficult position to even debate that issue," he said, adding that he favored a rule that would "get us off that dilemma."