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Md. prosecutors drop wiretapping charges against Linda...


Md. prosecutors drop wiretapping charges against Linda Tripp

State prosecutors are dropping their wiretapping case against Linda R. Tripp, the Columbia resident whose recording of Monica Lewinsky exposed a sex scandal at the White House and led to the president's impeachment.

The decision came Wednesday after a pretrial ruling essentially eliminated the state's main witness, Lewinsky, whose testimony state prosecutors needed to prove that Tripp broke the law.

Tripp's lead defense attorney, Joseph Murtha, declared victory and said his client was relieved that the criminal case was finished.

In a statement, Tripp said: "The full story has not been told, but I continue to believe I did the right thing given the extraordinary circumstances in which I found myself. My family and I are enormously gratified that the federal immunity I was given has finally provided the protection it promised."

Funding decision creates doubt on Patapsco project

Howard County officials' decision not to provide additional funding to the Patapsco Heritage Greenway in the near future further cripples a project that has met with severe opposition from the day the public found out about it a year and a half ago.

The county will not renew a contract that would have given the group an additional $15,000, said Sang Oh, an aide to County Executive James N. Robey. Oh said the group also will have to repay the county $752.52 in expenses.

Depending on whom you ask, the move is a major blow or a minor setback to the group that wants to make a certified heritage area out of the Patapsco Valley State Park and surrounding communities.

The area, linked by trails, would have interpretive signs and brochures explaining the history of the valley, which flourished at the turn of the century. Opponents fear it would attract too many tourists, overcrowding the park and the riverside communities of Elkridge, Ellicott City, Oella, St. Denis and Relay.

Better schools will require money, time, Hickey says

Howard County's school system can improve, but it will take time and lots of money, according to a detailed response by retiring Superintendent Michael E. Hickey to a 70-point list of proposals by a citizens committee.

Hickey's report marks the start of what will likely be a long process - and the end of his 16-year tenure. He retires June 30.

The county is trying to change public perceptions about some schools with lower-than-average test scores, higher-than-average poverty rates and immigrant children, and which are often in older buildings.

A trend in the county has concentrated more African-American students in some older schools, mostly in Columbia. Among the first things Hickey noted is that new Superintendent John O'Rourke will be responsible for handling most of the issues raised by two county government-appointed committees after he begins work July 1.

Board approves suggestion by Hickey on moving funds

After weeks of budget wrangling with the Howard County Council, the school board approved a suggestion from Superintendent Michael E. Hickey and moved $130,000 from school transportation to classroom uses in next year's $334.4 million spending plan.

That action, along with $365,000 worth of other last-minute budget changes Wednesday, solved the dispute by providing enough money to finish cutting class sizes in all first and second grades. The changes will pay for three more jobs - middle school reading teachers or guidance counselors.

"It sounds like an easy move," said school board Chairman Sandra H. French, who, like other board members, had come prepared to deal with lists of items to find the needed money.

Assured by Hickey that the change would not mean longer bus rides for any Howard children, the board approved.

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