It took 74 meetings to develop.
The plan was to hire a cadre of criminal justice researchers, furnish a suite of offices, build a Web site, lease vehicles and train 2,000 law enforcement officers a year in what in early drafts was dubbed the "Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Community Institute" on criminal justice.
University of Maryland researchers working with Townsend's Office of Crime Control and Prevention spent about $200,000 and the better part of a year on start-up efforts for the institute. But two months after the program began, the anti-crime office abruptly shut it down, and instead poured money into a project to teach community members how to get grants.
The funds for the aborted institute are among grants being scrutinized by federal investigators in a probe of the crime-control office and whether its activities were geared to further the lieutenant governor's political aspirations.
The U.S. attorney's office subpoenaed records of the institute from the university in August, and FBI agents have questioned potential witnesses in recent weeks, said sources familiar with the probe. Townsend (D) has called the investigation "political garbage" stirred up by a Republican prosecutor as she runs for governor.
The crime-control office, which Townsend created in 1995, has directed some of her signature programs, including the HotSpots initiative focusing resources on high-crime neighborhoods and Break the Cycle targeting drug users.
At the same time, it has grown exponentially, its budget rising from $10 million to $45 million annually as it awarded thousands of state and federal grants for a broad range of programs to fight crime.
With the office's rapid growth, Townsend acknowledged, came some problems monitoring all the programs. "They probably could have done a better job of tracking grants," Townsend said, speaking generally about the agency in a recent interview with Washington Post reporters and editors. "But I don't think that demands a federal grand jury investigation."
Some lawmakers say the handling of the project raises troubling questions about the management of the office.
"Knowing of the dire need for law enforcement training, to start going down the road and back up and slam the door on these people . . . it's a disgraceful waste of taxpayer dollars," said Del. John R. Leopold (R-Anne Arundel), a member of the House Appropriations Committee.
Sen. Robert R. Neall (D-Anne Arundel), of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, said the project's handling "bears looking into." He also noted that the university researchers who developed the project "are highly respected people in their field."
Complete records of the closed criminal justice institute -- seven binders of documents -- were disclosed by the university after a public information request.
In interviews, crime-control agency executive director Stephen P. Amos said he pulled funding from the institute because he believed the project didn't fulfill an evolving mandate from state advisory boards to provide broad-based training on youth strategies and technical grant assistance. Amos said the institute was too narrowly focused on law enforcement. "We reprioritized," he said.
From beginning to end, planning for the institute was labor-intensive and involved the crime-control office. University of Maryland researchers met with agency officials, academic experts and others from April through December 2001, according to grant reports.
The plan became formal in July 2001, when Thomas H. Carr, director of the university's Public Safety Training and Technical Assistance Program which receives about $20 million in grants annually, submitted a proposal for a "community justice institute." Carr's idea was to offer advanced law enforcement training, especially in narcotics.
Carr's staff partnered with other criminal justice experts to create an academic advisory team, which included members from Johns Hopkins University and various community colleges, as well as training programs for state police and corrections officers.
"Putting a coalition together doesn't happen overnight," said Carr, to whom the university directed questions. "We had assembled a group of recognized experts."
Sheldon F. Greenberg, director of the Police Executive Leadership Program at Johns Hopkins, said he was excited at the prospect. "They were bringing the right people to the table," he said.
As it developed, other tasks were folded into Carr's proposal at the direction of the crime-control office. These included technical assistance for people seeking grants.
Crime-control officials also suggested adding the lieutenant governor's name to the project title, sources familiar with the project said. Several documents refer to the project as the "Kathleen Kennedy Townsend Community Institute" for criminal justice and technical assistance and then finally the "Criminal Justice Institute Project."
In September 2001, the crime-control office gave the institute the official go-ahead, funding it for an initial $313,000 from state and federal grants.
Carr rented a $2,400-per-month suite of offices at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum. He outfitted the space with furniture, computers, fiber optic cables and telephones. He hired staff and began to plan classes.
Official word to shut it down came in December, Carr said, when the crime-control office's deputy director, Sonya T. Proctor, told him funds were no longer available. "And they indicated that they were looking into doing these things themselves," Carr said.
"No explanation, direction or any other communication was received," a grant progress report notes. And the institute has been "brought to a standstill." In January, institute staff vacated the Linthicum offices, but the space sat empty through May when the lease was canceled, records show.
Most of the $200,000 spent went to start-up costs and salaries, records show, with the exception of about $50,000 to send dozens of people chosen by the crime-control agency to national conferences.
Amos said the agency originally pursued the institute plan because it "fit with the broader vision" for training. That changed, he said, after a series of advisory committee meetings, culminating in a November 2001 meeting with the Cabinet Council on Criminal and Juvenile Justice, chaired by Townsend. In the meetings, "a mandate was given" to expand grant assistance and youth programs, he said.
"It became clear the people involved in [the institute] didn't have the breadth or skills or kinds of backgrounds . . . to take this up to the next level," Proctor said.
The agency shifted efforts to a program it had initiated to train community members how to use grant money, Proctor said. Known as the Maryland Resource Center, the program already was under development through another branch of the university.
The center, which opened two months ago, also is supposed to concentrate on developing strategies to combat such youth delinquency issues as underage drinking, Amos said. Its staff, he said, has a "much more diverse background, a lot of skill and expertise" in working with community groups and substance abuse prevention.
Those who developed the institute are not involved in the resource center, and its grant proposal included none of the advanced training the institute had planned, records show.
Even so, research conducted for the institute that revealed needs in law enforcement training, Amos said, will be folded into planned training through the resource center. The institute's work "isn't abandoned," Amos said.
Staff writer Lori Montgomery contributed to this report.