A spokesman to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller clarified this afternoon that Sen. Ulysses Currie is no longer serving on the Rules or Executive Nominations committees following a recommendation last month by the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics and vote by the full Senate.
The issue arose this week because several senators were surprised that Currie appeared at the Executive Nominations panel on Monday evening and voted. Currie, a Prince George's County Democrat, was censured by the body in mid-February for failing to disclose income from a grocery chain while he lobbying on behalf of the firm to state agencies. The Senate, at that time, adopted recommendations that Currie be stripped from his positions on the Executive Nominations and Rules committees.
The senator’s presence at Monday's committee meeting prompted Baltimore County Sen. James Brochin, a Democrat, to fire off a letter to ethics panel chairman Sen. Norman Stone this morning, also a Baltimore County Democrat, saying he was "absolutely flabbergasted" that Currie was participating on the committee. Brochin said it appeared the work of the ethics panel had been "circumvented."
"The penalties imposed on Senator Currie should be adhered to," Brochin wrote.
Stone received the letter this morning and Currie had "accepted the decision of the committee" on the Senate floor. "I don’t know why he was there," Stone said, referring to Currie's decision to attend the Monday night committee meeting. Stone does not expect Currie will be at next week's meeting.
A Miller spokesman said Thursday that Currie attended the Executive Nominations meeting only as a favor to the Senate president, who could not be there. A constituent of Miller's -- who after redistricting will be represented by Currie -- was up for a vote that day, the spokesman said.
The spokesman noted that the Senate does not typically put out a list of new committee assignments mid-session, but during the interim a new list will be published reflecting the changes. The list, he said, will show Currie as a member of only the Budget and Taxation Committee – a post the ethics panel recommended he keep.
The Senate voted 47-0 to censure Currie on Feb. 17. The ethics committee had met several times in the early weeks of session to collect facts and hash out an appropriate penalty, including one five-hour meeting where Currie and a lawyer spoke to the members.
The panel found that Currie broke the law by failing to disclose that he was being paid nearly $250,000 by Shoppers Food Warehouse to represent the grocery chain before state agencies. The ethics panel also found that he voted on legislation in which he had a conflict of interest, abused the prestige of his office and acted as an unregistered lobbyist, among other violations.
Miller said he would take the committee recommendations by under advisement but did not say whether Currie would be removed from the Rules and Executive Nominations panels. He also said he reserved the right to name Currie to conference committees -- the small working groups that work out differences between Senate and House bills – even though the ethics panel recommended that Currie be excluded from participation.
A federal jury found Currie not guilty of bribery charges related to his work for Shoppers. Currie's attorneys argued in court that the Senator had made mistakes that would be better handled by the General Assembly's ethics process than a federal court.