- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2002

ANNAPOLIS The Board of Public Works voted yesterday to pay Peter Angelos' law firm $150 million despite complaints from Comptroller William Donald Schaefer that the state is reneging on an agreement to pay the Baltimore Orioles majority owner much more.
"You know, Joe, I think this is a dirty trick," Mr. Schaefer told Attorney General J. Joseph Curran, who came before the board seeking approval of the agreement to end the long-running dispute between Mr. Angelos and the state.
"Don't you feel strange as a lawyer beating down another lawyer?" Mr. Schaefer asked the attorney general.
"They are a good firm. They did a great job," Mr. Curran replied.
The attorney general, however, said $150 million is a fair payment for the work done by Mr. Angelos' law firm and that it was agreed to by Mr. Angelos.
"We had a disagreement, but we put it behind us," he said.
Under the original agreement, Mr. Angelos was to receive one-quarter of the more than $4 billion settlement with the tobacco industry.
Russell Smouse, Mr. Angelos' attorney, said afterward that Mr. Angelos "was honored to have an opportunity to represent the citizens of Maryland."
"We feel that this settlement was acceptable," Mr. Smouse said.
Mr. Angelos joined Gov. Parris N. Glendening at a news conference April 11 to announce that he and the governor had reached a settlement of the two-year fee dispute.
Maryland was one of the first states to sue tobacco companies to reclaim money the state said it had spent treating smoking-related illnesses among Medicaid patients.
The lawsuit was considered a long shot at the time, and Maryland agreed to pay Mr. Angelos 25 percent of any money it recovered in return for his handling the case and paying the legal costs up front.
But when tobacco companies agreed to a national settlement before Maryland's case went to court, state officials balked, saying $1 billion was an unreasonable fee for the amount of work done.
The legislature voted at one point to limit the fee to about $500 million, and Mr. Angelos offered to settle for $250 million last year before finally agreeing to the $150 million settlement.
Mr. Curran said the only step remaining to bring the dispute to an end was to file the agreement with the U.S. District Court. That will free up more than $120 million that has been held in an escrow account pending resolution of the dispute.
The dispute was never about the quality of the work, but about setting a reasonable fee for the work done by the Angelos firm, Mr. Curran told the board.
Mr. Smouse said a national panel rated Maryland's legal challenge as the third best in the nation. As a result of the work by the Angelos law firm, Maryland will receive a bonus of $283 million on top of the $4 billion or more tobacco companies are expected to pay the state over the next two decades, he said.

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