ANNAPOLIS, JAN. 29 -- Del. Sylvania W. Woods Jr. (D-Prince George's) abruptly resigned without explanation from the Maryland General Assembly today.
Several delegates said they were questioned last week by investigators in the State Prosecutor's Office about Woods's cellular telephone business.
It could not be learned whether Woods's resignation was related to those inquiries.
Woods, who was chairman of the Prince George's House delegation, submitted his resignation to Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. (D-Kent) this morning, less than three weeks after taking the oath of office to begin a fourth four-year term.
Woods gave no reason for his decision, Mitchell said.
On Monday, the Prince George's Journal published an interview with Woods in which the delegate said he planned to resign in mid-February to concentrate on his private life and career outside the legislature.
Del. David M. Valderrama (D-Prince George's) said today he was interviewed by telephone last week by an investigator from the office of State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli.
Valderrama said he was told that an investigation of Woods was being conducted and was asked whether he had bought a cellular telephone from Woods.
"I said I had a phone and wasn't in the market," Valderrama said. "They said they were looking into it."
Two other lawmakers also confirmed that they had been questioned about Woods, who lists his occupation as sales manager for a cellular telephone company.
Woods's colleagues said they were asked by Maryland investigators whether they had bought mobile phones or telephone air time from Woods.
The legislators asked that they not be identified, saying that the questioning might be misinterpreted as evidence of possible wrongdoing.
Woods, 37, could not be reached for comment Monday or today.
Lobbyist Bruce C. Bereano said today he had been in contact with Woods and called his departure a "sad occasion."
"He resigned today and did it freely and voluntarily," Bereano said.
"It was his own idea. He thought it was appropriate to do that," he said.
Montanarelli has refused to confirm or deny that his office has been investigating Woods's activities.
The Office of the State Prosecutor is empowered to investigate allegations that public officials may have violated state election laws, public ethics laws or been involved in bribery, perjury, obstruction of justice or other misconduct in office.
At a Monday night legislative session, Sen. Decatur W. Trotter (D-Prince George's) was accompanied by Ricardo Mitchell, who helped organize Woods's reelection campaign and is considered a possible successor.
The county Democratic Central Committee will recommend a successor for Woods.
The appointment will be made by Gov. William Donald Schaefer (D).
Woods was the first black lawmaker to be elected chairman of the Prince George's delegation. And political friends said he had often discussed the possibility of running for higher office.
The son of Prince George's District Judge Sylvania W. Woods Sr., he served on the Glenarden Town Council from 1976 to 1979 and was acting mayor in 1978.
Woods presided over the delegation during a stormy period in which the legislature often sought to expand its influence over the county by imposing strict ethics and campaign fund-raising laws on the County Council.
He had been praised by fellow delegates for negotiating treacherous political waters but also maintained close ties to most county leaders. He served on the Constitutional and Administrative Law Committee.