- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 16, 2002

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Some Prince George's County residents are complaining they have not been paid, as promised, for handing out literature promoting Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on Election Day.

Maryland State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli, meanwhile, is investigating whether poll workers were illegally paid so-called "walking around money" to work for Mr. Ehrlich's campaign Nov. 5.

State election law forbids paying poll workers to distribute materials on behalf of a candidate.

Many of the students, homeless people and county residents apparently were duped into working by the promise of a $125 payment. Efforts to collect the money have been met by unanswered calls and disconnected phone numbers, some complained.

"I didn't stand out in the rain to support someone I didn't vote for in order [to] not get paid," said Lillie Mello, 47, who said she worked at an Oxon Hill polling station.

Mr. Montanarelli would not comment on the investigation, but said he wouldn't "deny we are questioning people" who were told they would be paid to hand out Ehrlich material. The special prosecutor said he is focusing the probe on Prince George's County.

Asked about the probe yesterday, Mr. Ehrlich said his campaign did nothing wrong. "You cannot pay people to work on Election Day. We followed the law," Mr. Ehrlich said.

Several homeless people from a D.C. shelter told the Associated Press Nov. 5 that they were bused out of the city to hand out Ehrlich fliers in return for money and food. Some said they were stranded at the polls when vans didn't return.

Students at Bowie State University also said piles of leaflets promising money in return for poll work were distributed on campus in the days before the election.

Miss Mello's daughter, a Bowie State student, brought one of the fliers home. It said workers would be paid according to the number of hours they worked and receive meals.

Miss Mello said she called the number on the flier and later attended a training session held by a group called "Democrats for Ehrlich" on the Sunday night before the election at a New Carrollton office building.

Trainees, almost all of whom were black, were told to aggressively approach all cars and voters entering the polls. The majority-black county is a Democratic stronghold and was a key battleground in the race, won by Mr. Ehrlich over Democratic Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

The trainees also were told they had to wear an Ehrlich T-shirt to get paid, Miss Mello said. "We were told we couldn't leave the poll for nothing but a bathroom break," she said.

After working from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m., Miss Mello said she called the number she was provided to ask about payment and was told money would be handed out Saturday. When she called back Saturday, a message said the number had been disconnected but provided a forwarding number.

That new number was for the Ehrlich campaign headquarters in Baltimore. A woman answering the phone there yesterday said she wasn't aware that the New Carrollton number had been forwarded to the Ehrlich office.

Miss Mello said one of the people who trained her was named "Rashida" and students from Bowie State told the Baltimore Sun a man named Steven Martin also gave instructions.

Ehrlich campaign finance records show a woman named Rashida Hogg from Silver Spring was paid $2,300 on Oct. 17. Mr. Martin, of Oxon Hill, was paid $1,700 by the Ehrlich campaign on the same day, the records show.

Miss Hogg formerly worked on the Rev. C. Anthony Muse's Democratic campaign for Prince George's County executive. A telephone call by the Associated Press seeking comment from Mr. Martin was not immediately returned yesterday.

The Ehrlich campaign heavily promoted the Democrats for Ehrlich, saying it showed Republicans had made inroads with traditional Democrats, especially black voters.


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