State Del. Nathaniel T. Oaks has decided to publish his legislative telephone number.
Mr. Oaks said yesterday he told the telephone company to publish the number because of a story in The Sun, which reported that he was charging taxpayers for an unlisted phone line at his home.
Mr. Oaks had defended the expense, saying he uses the phone for state business.
Maryland lawmakers may bill the state for phones in their homes used solely for government business, but Mr. Oaks' system was unusual because the number was unpublished and therefore unavailable to many constituents.
The West Baltimore Democrat said yesterday he decided to drop the unlisted feature of the telephone number because it was a "big issue" with The Sun.
House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. applauded the decision, which he said was made by Mr. Oaks without prompting from the speaker.
"I think it was the right thing for him to do," said Mr. Taylor, an Allegany County Democrat. "When you have an unlisted number, you avoid access and the whole purpose of a public official's official work number is to gain access" to constituents.
"I know of no other situation where a delegate has an unlisted number," he said.
Delegate Oaks said many people already had the number even though it was unlisted.
"It's on my cards," he said. "It's in the church bulletin. It wasn't a big deal."
His number was not available from telephone directory assistance yesterday.
Shannon Fioravanti, a spokeswoman for Bell Atlantic-Maryland, said it typically takes about a day for such a change to take effect.
Mr. Oaks has said he has a separate, unlisted phone line at his home for personal calls and pays for that himself.
His state election records from last year show as his home number the same unlisted number he now says is used for legislative business.
Mr. Taylor said he is satisfied that Mr. Oaks' state-financed phone is being used solely for government business.
Mr. Oaks criticized the Sun article for mentioning an incident from his past -- a 1988 conviction for stealing from his campaign fund -- but failing to say he has been involved in charitable events in Baltimore and Anne Arundel County more recently.
In 1990, a judge changed Mr. Oaks' conviction to probation before judgment.