- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 7, 2003

Even though they knew he had eavesdropped on the Democrats three days earlier, two officials from the Virginia Attorney General’s Office met with then-top Republican staff member Edmund A. Matricardi III and discussed statewide redistricting, two newspapers reported Friday.

Citing unidentified sources, the Danville Register & Bee and the Daily Progress of Charlottesville said Matricardi met with two officials from the office of Republican Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore.

The meeting occurred three days after Matricardi covertly had monitored a high-level Democratic conference call about redistricting strategy and just one hour before he would do it a second time. Mr. Kilgore’s office said on March 25, just before the meeting, it had alerted state police that one of its staff members had information about the eavesdropping that had occurred the previous Friday.

The office of Gov. Mark Warner, a participant in the March 22 teleconference, was not told until March 26 that someone had listened in on their confidential conversations.

Matricardi was present at the March 25 meeting in the Capitol Square office of then-House Speaker S. Vance Wilkins Jr., where the political issue was discussed with members of the Republican National Committee, a Richmond law firm, Republican state legislators and political aides.

The subject of the meeting was forging a public-relations strategy after a judge ruled the Republican redistricting plan was unconstitutional. That ruling later was overturned on appeal.

Kilgore spokesman Tim Murtaugh said none of the attorney general’s staff members who attended the meeting with Mr. Wilkins, Matricardi and the others knew any details of the eavesdropping and were unaware at the time that Mr. Matricardi was involved.

“If anyone from this office had known the facts, we would have stayed a hundred miles away from that meeting and, I would imagine, demand that it not take place at all,” Mr. Murtaugh said.

Matricardi pleaded guilty to one count in the eaves-dropping and was sentenced to three years of probation.

In a September appearance in Henrico Circuit Court over the suspension of his state law license, Matricardi testified that he had met privately March 25 with Mr. Wilkins and his chief of staff and briefed them on what he had heard. That meeting occurred in the morning, before the larger meeting that involved Mr. Kilgore’s staff.

• Happy holidays

Maryland state workers got an early Christmas present yesterday from the governor.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. announced Friday that he has declared Dec. 26 an additional state holiday for this year.

• Beefing up the Bay

When the governors of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania attend a meeting tomorrow of the Chesapeake Bay Program executive council, they likely will be greeted by protests from activists unhappy about a lack of progress in restoring the Bay.

The nonprofit Chesapeake Bay Foundation plans to unload a group of boaters, watermen and environmentalists tomorrow at George Mason University in Fairfax to “show concern” about nitrogen pollution in the Bay, foundation leaders said Friday.

The group plans to speak publicly while the executive council meets in closed session.

The council is made up of Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, the administrator of the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the chairman of the Chesapeake Bay Commission, a group comprising legislators and Cabinet secretaries from the three states.

• Help on the way

Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s administration announced Thursday that it will hire 50 caseworkers for Baltimore’s Department of Social Services.

The hiring will cost more than $2 million a year. The move follows criticism that the department is understaffed, mismanaged and led by an interim director, Floyd Blair, who has little experience.

The agency is run by the state and oversees welfare programs and the care of more than 7,500 foster children in the city.

Mayor Martin O’Malley sued Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican in November, saying that the governor’s appointment of a novice manager to run a chaotic agency endangered children and violated the law because it did not have city approval.

• Reporting to jail

Sa’ad El-Amin, a longtime activist in Richmond’s political and legal scenes, reported to a federal prison in Kentucky on Tuesday to begin serving a 37-month sentence for tax-fraud conspiracy.

The former City Council member and disbarred lawyer pleaded guilty on July 1 in U.S. District Court.

He was sentenced Oct. 17, but Judge Henry E. Hudson allowed him to remain free until last week.

El-Amin had asked for, and the judge had recommended, his assignment to the federal prison at Petersburg, Va., so he could be near friends and family. But the U.S. Bureau of Prisons assigned him to the minimum-security prison in Ashland, Ky.

This column is based in part on wire service reports.

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