- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 17, 2002


A state crime office instructed the University of Maryland to hire and pay 68 of the agency's employees using federal grants meant for the school, according to records released yesterday.

The Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, or GOCCP, is the subject of a federal grand jury investigation into possible misuse of federal money.

Prosecutors are trying to determine whether the office headed by Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend improperly used grants given to the university to pay its own staff.

GOCCP acts as a clearinghouse for federal and state crime-fighting grants given to the communities around the state, handing out $45 million each year. A large beneficiary is a substance abuse research center at the university, which has close ties to the crime office.

Under the arrangement, GOCCP would tell the university to hire an employee, often with the title of "faculty research assistant." GOCCP would then funnel more grant money to the school to cover the additional cost, even though the employee usually didn't work at the university.

Records from the university show the practice began in 1996, but intensified over the past two years. Some employees were well paid, with four making more than $90,000 annually from grants given out by GOCCP.

Many of the hires are still employed under the arrangement and most are assigned to work in Towson, not College Park, where the university is located.

University officials said this week that they would review the policy of hiring employees at GOCCP's behest.

The ongoing probe of the crime office has focused on crime-fighting grants GOCCP distributed to the university and a Prince George's County community group.

Prosecutors have also subpoenaed a database produced by former GOCCP staffer Margaret Burns.

Miss Burns, who left the office in December, said she was instructed by Townsend Chief of Staff Alan Fleischmann to keep track of crime-fighting promises Mrs. Townsend made to communities and whether they were kept.

Miss Burns said the purpose was to shield the Democrat from any political embarrassments that could haunt her in her current bid for governor. Mr. Fleischmann has denied the charge.

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