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Democrat wants Finney to skip inquiry


In the continuing verbal tussle over an impending legislative investigation into Ehrlich administration personnel practices, a Montgomery County delegate demanded yesterday that the governor's chief counsel recuse himself from the proceedings.

Del. Peter Franchot, a Democrat and frequent critic of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., accused Jervis S. Finney of attempting to "harass and intimidate" one of the senators on the panel and said it would be inappropriate for Finney to participate.

Finney denied that he has attempted to harass or intimidate the senator, Montgomery County Democrat Brian E. Frosh, with whom he has exchanged a series of letters in recent weeks.

Finney said there was no reason for him to recuse himself.

"Obviously, there is no conflict of interest whatsoever because of my position as counsel to the governor," Finney said.

On Friday, Finney demanded that Frosh step down from the panel. In a letter, Finney accused Frosh of prejudging the administration's guilt, a charge Frosh denied.

Democrats say the investigation is necessary to examine charges that the administration fired midlevel bureaucrats to replace them with political loyalists. Finney has said that all of the administration's personnel moves have been proper.

Yesterday, Finney sent a fax message to state Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a Baltimore County Democrat who is also slated to serve on the personnel panel, also accusing her of prejudging the administration's guilt.

He did not ask her to resign from the panel, though Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele mentioned her name in a radio interview Saturday in which he said the administration would not participate in the hearings if lawmakers who had made public statements accusing the administration of wrongdoing served on the panel.

Hollinger said she will not resign and will draw conclusions after hearing the evidence.

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