- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 3, 2003

The Ehrlich administration has reached out to Maryland’s growing Hispanic community, promising a group of Hispanic business leaders that their concerns will be heard at the highest levels of state government.

Aides to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said Hispanics will be considered for high-level positions in the administration. The administration also promised that the Governor’s Commission on Hispanic Affairs will be reconstituted so that it will be an effective voice for the community.

“I think we have a receptive ear in the governor,” said Jorge Ribas, owner of a Montgomery County consulting company and president of the Maryland Hispanic Republican Caucus.

Mr. Ehrlich did not attend the Thursday meeting where the initiative was announced.

Mr. Ribas, who has been critical of the lack of Hispanic appointees by Mr. Ehrlich as well as by previous Democratic governors, said he believes the governor “has a greater awareness of the importance of the Hispanic community.”

“The bottom line is we are achieving economic power. We need to achieve political power,” he said.

The Commission on Hispanic Affairs was created in the 1970s by Gov. Marvin Mandel, but several people attending the meeting said it has not been active or effective.

“This is now a viable commission. In the past it has not been,” said Hector Torres, appointed by Mr. Ehrlich as the new executive director of the commission. The governor also created a position of outreach coordinator for the commission.

Mr. Ehrlich’s veto of a bill that would have allowed some illegal immigrants who earn a high school diploma after attending schools in Maryland to pay in-state tuition at Maryland colleges was criticized by many Hispanic leaders, who said it could hurt Republican efforts to lure Latino voters away from the Democratic Party.

“I think any time a Republican takes such a public view in opposition to the Latino community, it hurts the Republican Party overall,” said Kimberley Propeack, a lawyer with the Maryland Latino Coalition for Justice.

• Private practice

A private meeting of the state Waste Management Board to discuss trash barge regulations violated Virginia’s sunshine law, the head of the state’s freedom of information agency said in an informal opinion.

The board apparently broached topics it should not have when it went into a closed session to hear legal advice on July 25, Maria J.K. Everett, executive director of the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council, told the Richmond Times-Dispatch in an interview published Thursday.

Those topics included a discussion of whether to allow more public comment, and a decision to get an update on the effectiveness of the barge rules six months after barging starts, Miss Everett said.

“I don’t hear a legal issue” in those topics, she said.

However, she said, it is tough to know if the board broke the law without knowing the full nature of the talks. “It just depends on the context” of the discussions.

Miss Everett’s opinion carries no legal weight. Her 3-year-old agency works to encourage better compliance with the open-meeting law.

• Heavy metal

D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, who is exempt from walking through the metal detector at the John A. Wilson Building, vowed Thursday to start doing so, just as ordinary citizens do.

The subject surfaced last month when a member of the New York City Council was fatally shot in City Hall, after he and the suspect avoided the metal detectors. As a result, New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg ordered everyone, himself included, to pass through them.

Mr. Williams said he, too, will embrace the security measure and hopes the D.C. Council, which is also exempt from stepping through the metal detector, will follow in his footsteps.

“I think we need to tighten security further, and I think we need to lead by example,” Mr. Williams told WTOP Radio.

The 95-year-old Wilson Building, two blocks east of the White House, serves as the District’s city hall. The building, which is under the council’s control, currently has a metal detector at the D Street NW entrance, but not at the Pennsylvania Avenue door, where there are only guards with handheld wands. A council spokesman said there is no room for a metal detector in that entrance’s hallway.

On March 9, 1977, the Wilson Building was one of three buildings in the District stormed by a group of Hanafi Muslims, who shot a radio reporter dead and held hostages. The group wounded a council aide, a guard, and Marion Barry, a D.C. Council member at the time who went on to serve four terms as mayor.

• Ailing congressman

Republican Rep. Wayne T. Gilchrest will undergo surgery today at Chester River Hospital Center in Chestertown, Md., to remove a small part of his colon as treatment for diverticulosis.

Tony Caligiuri, Mr. Gilchrest’s chief of staff, told the Easton Star Democrat that the congressman decided earlier this year to have surgery during Congress’ August break.

Mr. Gilchrest has had the condition since 1987. The surgery involves removing the affected part of the colon, then rejoining the healthy sections.

Mr. Gilchrest will stay in the hospital for four to five days and spend a few weeks recuperating at home, Mr. Caligiuri said.

• Keeping in touch

Virginia election officials gave the green light Thursday to a touch-screen voting system even though a report a week earlier said the system is vulnerable to ballot tampering.

Norfolk is the only locality planning to use the machine in this fall’s legislative election. Maryland has agreed to buy $55 million worth of the Diebold Election Systems AccuVote-TS computerized voting machines.

Virginia is updating its patchwork of outdated lever-driven and punch-card voting machines and replacing them with automated, touch-screen systems.

In certifying the Diebold machine, the Virginia Board of Elections rejected a report by the Information Security Institute in Baltimore that said the Diebold system was flawed.

• New on board

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. named Baltimore civil rights lawyer A. Dwight Pettit to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents, filling an opening left by the resignation of Nathan A. Chapman Jr.

Mr. Pettit, a Democrat, appeared in a campaign advertisement for Mr. Ehrlich last fall, encouraging blacks to vote for the Republican. His appointment must be confirmed by the state Senate during the next legislative session.

Mr. Chapman, an ally of former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, was indicted in federal court on charges that he defrauded the state’s public pension system. He resigned from the board July 5 to focus on his defense.

Mr. Pettit, 57, earned his reputation through several high-profile cases, including police brutality lawsuits and claims against celebrities such as boxer Mike Tyson and football player Ray Lewis.

The 17-member board of regents oversees 13 state public university campuses, including the University of Maryland’s flagship College Park campus.

• Fined for being late

Virginia Senate candidate Mike Rothfeld was fined $700 by the Stafford County Electoral Board for failing to file finance reports with the county.

In a letter dated July 24, the board told Mr. Rothfeld he is being fined $500 for failing to report five large campaign contributions in the days immediately before the June 10 Republican primary, which he lost to Sen. John Chichester.

He was also fined $100 for filing his last campaign finance report a day late and $100 for not filing a finance report due June 2.

This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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