- The Washington Times - Friday, August 23, 2002

BALTIMORE Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend yesterday defended the actions of the state crime office she heads, an agency under federal investigation for possible misuse of federal anti-crime money.

Mrs. Townsend said her role in the Governor's Office of Crime Control and Prevention, or GOCCP, was to set policy, not deal with the details of how or where the office distributed millions in federal funds.

A federal grand jury in Baltimore is investigating the office's use of grants from the U.S. Department of Justice. A former GOCCP employee says she was paid with federal money to aid Mrs. Townsend's campaign for governor.

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The lieutenant governor said she has asked Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran to review the use of federal money that the crime office gave to the University of Maryland. In an interview with the Associated Press yesterday, Mrs. Townsend said she didn't believe GOCCP was misusing the grants.

"I believe they are giving grants according to guidelines," said Mrs. Townsend, a Democrat.

Mrs. Townsend has made fighting crime her major focus during two terms in office. She was made head of GOCCP, which funnels about $45 million in federal and state grants each year to law enforcement agencies, community groups and researchers.

Earlier this year, a federal grand jury subpoenaed records of federal grants given to Prince George's County community groups.

It also sought details of crime-research grants given to the University of Maryland. School officials said GOCCP instructed them to hire people who never worked at the university, many of whom ended up at the crime office. GOCCP would then boost federal grants to the school to pay for the new staffers.

Mrs. Townsend has said little about the probe, except to call it "political garbage" orchestrated by Maryland's Republican U.S. Attorney Thomas DiBiagio. Her probable Republican opponent, U.S. Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., supported Mr. DiBiagio's appointment.

A spokeswoman for Mr. DiBiagio didn't return calls by the Associated Press yesterday seeking comment.

GOCCP released copies this week of a database compiled by former employee Margaret Burns, records that also were subpoenaed by federal prosecutors.

Miss Burns said her $68,000 GOCCP salary was paid with federal grant money and she was asked to record Mrs. Townsend's appearances statewide for the crime office. Miss Burns said she created a spreadsheet that tracked promises Mrs. Townsend made, where it fit in her crime-fighting philosophy and whether the pledges were backed up with grants to communities.

Miss Burns said Townsend Chief of Staff Alan Fleischmann told her to make the database so the lieutenant governor could avoid any political pitfalls on the campaign trail. Mr. Fleischmann has denied the accusations.

Mrs. Townsend said she didn't know about the database.

"I don't get involved at that level of detail," she said. "What I do is set the parameters."

It is still not clear what the rules are for crime grants distributed by the Justice Department's grant unit, the Office of Justice Programs. Glenda Kendrick, a spokeswoman for the office, said yesterday that she would not comment because of the ongoing investigation.

Grant guidelines posted on the department's Web site say federal money can't be used for lobbying or for activities related to elections and campaigns.

Stephen Amos, GOCCP's executive director, said his office doesn't use federal money for political work.

Otherwise, it has considerable freedom to distribute the grants, he said.

"There are a lot of rules, but they give us a great deal of latitude," he said.

Mrs. Townsend said the focus on GOCCP has been a distraction to her campaign.

She said she hoped Mr. Curran's decision would clarify whether the office's use of money was legal under state law, even though it has no effect on the investigation being carried out by federal prosecutors.

"I think that opinion is still important," she said.

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