- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 3, 2005

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s top lawyer has asked state Sen. Paula Colodny Hollinger to admit to biased statements against the governor that have tainted a proposed investigation into the administration’s firing of state workers.

“Simply acknowledge your prior statement, then ‘correct the record’ as it were,” Jervis S. Finney, the administration’s chief legal counsel told Mrs. Hollinger Monday.

The request follows Mrs. Hollinger’s assertion this week that recent comments — including her statement that the Republican administration acted illegally in firing politically appointed state employees — did not prejudice the investigation.

Mrs. Hollinger, a Baltimore County Democrat on the 12-member Special Committee on State Employee Rights and Protections, did not return calls seeking comment yesterday.

The Washington Times first reported June 29 that two Democrats on the investigative committee expressed opinions about the legality of the administration’s actions before the committee had even convened.

Mrs. Hollinger, one of eight Democrats on the committee, told The Times that the administration’s actions were “against the law.”

Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat on the committee, was quoted as saying, “The stuff the Ehrlich administration has done is illegal.”

After an exchange of terse letters last week, Mr. Finney asked Mr. Frosh to recuse himself from the investigation because of his bias. He has not asked Mrs. Hollinger to quit.

Mr. Finney was primarily concerned with Mr. Frosh until the Baltimore Sun reported Sunday that Mrs. Hollinger said she has not prejudged the investigation.

Mrs. Hollinger told the paper that she had heard anecdotal evidence of questionable firings, but was willing to consider the administration’s evidence.

“If it was lawful firing, so be it,” she said.

In the letter sent Monday, Mr. Finney told Mrs. Hollinger that an earlier statement to The Times was “surely a definite conclusion” about what the investigation would find.

Still, the administration remains more critical of Mr. Frosh.

Mr. Finney has accused Mr. Frosh of collaborating with an attorney for several former state workers who are suing the state over their termination and of helping conceal the identity of “MD4Bush.”

MD4Bush is the user name of an Internet chat room visitor who in February prodded Ehrlich aide Joseph F. Steffen Jr. into discussing infidelity rumors about Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley, a likely Democratic candidate for governor next year.

The incident prompted Mr. Ehrlich to fire Mr. Steffen.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a Prince George’s Democrat who appointed Mr. Frosh and Mrs. Hollinger to the committee, repeatedly has declined to comment about bias among Democrats on the committee.

Sen. Thomas McLain Middleton, co-chairman of the committee, has opposed replacing Mr. Frosh or Mrs. Hollinger regardless of their convictions going into the investigation — the General Assembly’s first on someone outside the legislature in more than 25 years.

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