Unbeknownst to casual observers of the Pentagon's base-closing process, Southern Maryland had a secret weapon in its battle to keep three local bases open and flourishing.

At a meeting of advocates for the Naval Surface Warfare Center this week, Indian Head Defense Alliance President John Bloom thanked a long list of people who made it possible. He asked the audience to hold applause until the end.

But Rep. Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) arrived a little late and had other ideas. When Bloom read the name Jennifer Meyer, Hoyer began to clap with gusto.

"We were holding our applause until you got here, sir," Bloom joked.

Hoyer replied, "Jennifer Meyer deserved immediate applause."

So, who is Jennifer Meyer?

Turns out, Meyer spent the past three years as an aide to Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.), taking charge of Southern Maryland and base realignment and closure issues. When the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission was formed, Meyer was tapped as the Senate liaison. She ended up traveling the country with commission Chairman Anthony J. Principi.

"We had someone there on the right hand of the chairman," Hoyer said.

The effusive congressman went on to compare Meyer with the Marquis de Lafayette, who was critical to George Washington's success in the Revolutionary War.

"She was our Marquis de Lafayette," he said.

Ethics Inquiry Ongoing

Sequestered in the law library of the Charles County Attorney's Office the past couple weeks were the witnesses in the ongoing ethics investigation into former county administrator Eugene T. Lauer and Fiscal Services Director Richard Winkler.

The witnesses are appearing before the Ethics Commission as it tries to determine whether Lauer and Winkler -- both military veterans -- had a conflict of interest when they took part in discussions about enhancing retirement benefits for county employees with military experience.

The panel's proceedings are playing out behind closed doors in the county commissioners' hearing room, and it is not publicly known what each witness has said. But the broad outlines can be cobbled together from sightings in the hallway and interviews with sources.

When commissioners President Wayne Cooper (D) testified Nov. 9, it was the first time that Lauer had heard directly from the person who filed the complaint.

Joining Cooper last week was former commissioner W. Daniel Mayer (R), now a state delegate. The ethics panel watched a video of the meeting in which the county commissioners approved the military service credit. During that meeting, Mayer told the commissioners that he felt "very uncomfortable voting on it" because it would provide a benefit to a narrow group of employees.

The commissioners later rescinded their decision to adopt the credit, and the policy debate has not resurfaced.

Also testifying last week was human resources director Ann B. Pokora, who took part in the initial Pension Plan Committee meeting with Lauer and Winkler. According to minutes from that meeting, the two men recused themselves from voting, and a source said they presumed Pokora was asked whether that was the case.

On Monday, Pokora returned to provide testimony to start Winkler's portion of the hearings. Also called to testify Monday was Commissioner Al Smith (R-Waldorf) and, at Lauer's request, former Charles County school superintendent John Bloom as well as financial adviser Sam Ketterman, who has worked with Lauer and the county on its bond rating.

Cooper's complaint suggested that an employee felt pressured by one of the two men to bring up the military service credit issue. Smith has said publicly that he was responsible for prompting Lauer and Winkler to explore the service credit.

Smith declined to discuss his testimony this week. But he said in an interview that he has "stood by those comments and will continue to because that's the truth."

Cooper, Lauer and Winkler also have declined to comment on the proceedings.

Playing the role of prosecutor in the hearings is lawyer Judson P. Garrett, a former general counsel to the Maryland General Assembly who helped draft the state ethics law. He is joined by Wilmer R. Ticer, who is advising the ethics panel during the hearings.

According to documents obtained by The Washington Post, the county has paid the two lawyers $5,034 and $3,090, respectively, for their work, which is scheduled to continue this month.

Katrina Dog Day

The Humane Society of Calvert County is helping find new homes for 25 to 30 dogs displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

At an adoption event Saturday -- dubbed Katrina Dog Day -- organizers will attempt to find a home for the holidays for the rescued pets. The event is scheduled from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Prince Frederick Volunteer Rescue Squad Company No. 4.

For more information about the adoption day and the dogs that need homes, visit www.calvertcountyhumanesociety.org or call 301-904-5528.

Family Affair for Calvert GOP

The Calvert County Republican Central Committee elected Robin C. Marshall as its new chairman, succeeding Tom Kelley.

Don Statter was elected vice chairman.

Marshall owns an insurance agency. She is the sister of Calvert County Treasurer Novalea Tracy-Soper (R) and the daughter of former central committee chairman Roger Tracy and current committee member Linda Dianne Tracy.

"The mission of the Central Committee is to find the very best people in the county, persuade them to run for elective office and help them get elected," Marshall said in a statement released by the central committee. "We are facing a challenging election next year with competing visions for the future of this beautiful place where we live."