- The Washington Times - Friday, January 4, 2008

ANNAPOLIS — The chief clerk of the House says she was not responsible for altering a letter that has become a key piece of evidence in a lawsuit to invalidate the recent General Assembly special session in which billions in tax increases were passed.

In a long-awaited deposition, Mary Monahan said she knew the document had been “backdated” and that she ordered her staff not to alert members of the House about the incident. Mrs. Monahan, in the deposition taken Wednesday and released yesterday, said her judgment was impaired by a 24-hour flu.

A Carroll County judge is set to hear the case this afternoon.

House Minority Leader Anthony J. O’Donnell and other Republican leaders filed the lawsuit last month seeking to invalidate the tax increases passed during the special session, based on a constitutional clause that allows neither the Senate nor the House to adjourn for more than three days without the other’s consent.

The Senate adjourned for five days in the middle of the session.

The office of Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler said House Speaker Michael E. Busch gave Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Southern Maryland Democrat, proper consent after they traded phone calls via staff members.

But the written record of the exchange — two messages included in the House Journal, which is maintained by Mrs. Monahan — was backdated by a clerical assistant.

A letter from the Senate requesting consent on Nov. 9 was actually written by assistant clerk Colleen A. Cassidy, a House staffer, on Nov. 12.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat, said Mrs. Cassidy acted on her own and did not receive direction from the speaker’s office to backdate the letter.

Mrs. Monahan says in her testimony that had she not been sick she would not have delegated the task of writing the message to Mrs. Cassidy, nor would she have written the messages herself.

“I just would have objected,” she said. “I would have insisted something else be done.”

She then pointed to the constitutional clause at the heart of the case, reprinted in the House rules book:

“Neither house shall, without the consent of the other, adjourn for more than three days at any one time nor adjourn to any other place than that in which the House shall be sitting without the concurrent vote of two-thirds of the members present.”

Mrs. Monahan also directed her staff not to read the documents to House members, but would not say why. Her four-hour deposition was taken after weeks of legal wrangling over whether she should testify.

Representatives for Mr. Gansler called the deposition “pointless, useless and grueling.”

But Mr. Kramer said it validated his fear that there was an attempt to hide the altered document.

Republican leaders also yesterday asked Mr. Gansler to request an independent investigation by the state prosecutor’s office into the purported cover-up. Individual lawmakers are not allowed to request an investigation by the state prosecutor.

Mr. O’Donnell, Southern Maryland Republican, said Mr. Gansler has violated his ability to investigate independently a purported constitutional transgression in the case.

Raquel Guillory, a Gansler spokeswoman, called the request for an investigation a “last-ditch media ploy.”

The testimony was filled with objections by David Moore, an assistant attorney general, who bickered about which testimony was allowable and said “you’re getting me upset” when Mrs. Monahan began crying.

Lawyers from Mr. Gansler’s office battled throughout the holidays to block Mrs. Monahan’s testimony, arguing all the way to the state’s highest court that she should not be heard. However, three courts rejected the state’s appeals.

KEY PASSAGE

The following a passage in the four-hour deposition of Mary Monahan, chief clerk of the Maryland House, in which she acknowledges a key document in a lawsuit against the General Assembly was altered.

Question is plaintiff attorney Irwin R. Kramer.

Answer is Mrs. Monahan.

David Moore is an assistant attorney general.

Q: OK, how would you characterize it?

A: What?

Q: This is a backdated letter, isn’t it, exhibit W?

David Moore: Objection.

A: Yeah.

Q: So, you were asking for direction from [House Speaker Michael E. Busch’s] lawyer?

A: Uh-huh.

Q: As to whether it was OK to backdate?

A: No. What dates to put on the letter. What date.

Q: Why would there be an issue as to what date to put on the letter?

A: Well, the Senate adjourned on the 9th, and the Monday was the 12th. Does the 9th go on or does the 12th go on? And I didn’t want to get involved in that.

Q: Why not?

A: I was sick.

Q: Otherwise, you would have gotten involved?

A: Yeah. I would have.

Q: Why?

A: I wouldn’t have backdated it.

Q: Because as chief clerk it is your responsibility to make sure that the record is kept accurately?

A: Correct.

Source: The entire transcript is available at www.kramerslaw.com/MonahanDepo.txt.

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