A grand jury has indicted two employees of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s campaign for allegedly hiring poll workers on Election Day, and the Maryland state prosecutor said yesterday that his investigation is continuing.
Steven Martin and Rashida Hogg are charged with recruiting workers to hand out campaign literature at polling places in Prince George's County on behalf of Ehrlich and his running mate, Michael S. Steele, now lieutenant governor.
State election law bars payments to poll workers who advocate for a particular candidate, and the penalty for doling out the "walking-around money" can be as much as a year in jail and fines of up to $25,000.
Last month, the grand jury indicted Shirley R. Brookins, an employee of a D.C.-based temporary employment agency, for allegedly paying homeless people to work the polls for the Republican ticket.
State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli said he plans to present additional evidence to the Prince George's County grand jury, and he declined to specify when he expects to conclude his probe.
"We're moving along," he said."
Montanarelli's investigation threatens to become a distraction for Ehrlich, who took office only two weeks ago after a campaign in which he promised to rid Annapolis of what he described as a culture of corruption.
A spokesman for the governor said that the campaign did nothing improper.
"The Ehrlich campaign's ground rules were clear: No illegal hires," said Henry Fawell, the spokesman.
David Paulson, a spokesman for the Maryland Democratic Party, said that the indictments reflect poorly on Ehrlich and Steele. "The candidates and the campaign manager are responsible for what goes on in a campaign," Paulson said.
Martin, 32, a minister who resides in Capitol Heights, received $1,700 as the coordinator for Ehrlich's campaign in Prince George's, working under Wayne M. Clarke, according to campaign finance records. Martin and Clarke also worked on the campaign of C. Anthony Muse, who ran unsuccessfully for Prince George's county executive last year.
Howard Cardin, an attorney for Martin, said that his client told investigators that he did not hire anyone to work on Election Day.
"I have yet to see any information to show that he has done anything improper," Cardin said."
Hogg, 23, of Silver Spring, was paid $2,300 by the Ehrlich campaign to help coordinate the Prince George's get-out-the-vote effort. She could not be reached for comment. Her attorney, Billy Murphy, did not return a telephone message left at his Baltimore office.
Montanarelli declined to specify whom Martin and Hogg hired for Election Day. But two Bowie State University students have told investigators that they were among about two dozen students whom Hogg and Martin trained for Election Day at the Ehrlich campaign's New Carrollton headquarters.
The students said they were offered $125 to work while the polls were open.
Although the students said they were never compensated for their work, Montanarelli said, Ehrlich's campaign would have violated the law even by offering payment.
The prosecutor's investigation began after Democrats said they planned to pay workers up to $100 to canvass neighborhoods on behalf of congressional candidates on Election Day.
Party officials were forced to change course to ensure that the workers only encouraged people to vote and that they did not promote a political party or candidate.
The day after the election, an investigator from Montanarelli's office watched as dozens of residents of the Community for Creative Non-Violence, a D.C.-based homeless shelter, were each paid $150 for their work at the polls in Prince George's.
The indictment against Brookins, the head of the Alternate Resources Cooperate, a temporary worker agency, charged that nearly 200 homeless people were paid for "accosting voters outside the polls, communicating a voting preference and distributing campaign literature" for the Ehrlich-Steele ticket.
Campaign finance records show that Steele's campaign paid $52,640 to Brookins's firm three days before the election.
Brookins, whose trial is scheduled to begin in May, declined to comment yesterday.