- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 22, 2008

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — The State Ethics Commission has decided not to take any action on a complaint by a state senator, who criticized the manner in which Comptroller Peter Franchot offered to release names and salaries of state employees.

Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., Anne Arundel Democrat, called Feb. 28 for an investigation after Mr. Franchot released the names and salaries of 4,678 state employees to a newspaper that requested them.

“The commission dedicated considerable staff time in conducting a review of this matter,” wrote Robert Hahn, executive director of the State Ethics Commission. “Based on the information obtained, the commission determined not to take any further action on this matter at this time.”

In the letter to Mr. Franchot, the commission did not offer any further explanation. Mr. Hahn could not be reached yesterday.

Spokesman Joseph Shapiro said Mr. Franchot “is pleased, but not surprised” by the commission’s conclusion.

“Public access to information is vital in a democracy. The comptroller is committed to change and breaking down barriers to open and transparent government,” Mr. Shapiro said.

The salaries of state employees are a matter of public record. Mr. DeGrange, however, said Mr. Franchot crossed a line by offering the information before the paper made a formal request.

Before Mr. DeGrange’s request for an investigation, Mr. Franchot, a Democrat, expressed concerns that lawmakers were targeting the jobs of his top deputies with budget cuts in retaliation for negative comments about slot machine gambling and November’s special legislative session. Mr. Franchot has been at odds with Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, and the Senate leadership over his opposition to slots.

After a Feb. 13 Board of Public Works meeting, the comptroller told reporters that he had heard rumors about the cuts and that he could provide a list of people in state government who had salaries comparable to those of his deputies.

Soon after, the Baltimore Examiner asked the comptroller’s office by e-mail for a list of state employees who make more than $100,000 a year, citing the Maryland Public Information Act. The office provided the information.

Some senators have argued that Mr. Franchot has been involving himself in state matters that shouldn’t concern him in order to raise his political profile. Mr. Franchot, a statewide elected official, contends that he is only providing the independent voice that the voters elected him to bring to Annapolis.

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