Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. voiced concerns yesterday to the chairman of the state's independent stadium authority about its decision to pay more than $100,000 to hire private attorneys this year.
Curran (D) disputed a claim in an internal stadium authority memorandum that justified the contract with the firm of Baltimore lawyer William H. Murphy Jr. by saying the attorney general's office was "too busy" to help prepare a lawsuit against Major League Baseball.
The potential litigation, which never came to pass, was aimed at blocking baseball in Washington because it would cut into revenue at Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards, which the authority owns and operates.
Curran told authority Chairman Carl A.J. Wright that his office "was ready, able and willing" to do the legal work, according to a statement released by Curran's office last night.
Curran said he also advised Wright that he believed it appropriate for state auditors to review the decision to spend $111,000 on legal bills, which covered four months of work by the private firm.
Wright characterized the conversation with Curran as "very friendly" but said he in no way regrets the authority's decision to hire Murphy's firm.
Stadium Authority Executive Director Alison L. Asti said the agency has hired outside attorneys on numerous occasions, citing a $625,000 contract with the Baltimore law firm Hogan & Hartson in 2000 that was reviewed by auditors and raised no red flags.
Top state lawyers told The Washington Post last week that the no-bid contract with Murphy's firm did not follow procedures requiring state lawyers to sign off before any agency hires outside counsel.
Curran appeared to back off of a claim made by one of his top deputies last week that the authority violated state procurement law. The authority is not subject to that law, his office said yesterday, although Maryland's constitution gives the attorney general oversight of all state litigation.