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Ehrlich's lawyer denies teachers money


A group of teachers seeking back pay from a defunct private school set up by convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff won't get any money from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The 21 teachers who worked at Eshkol Academy in Columbia asked Ehrlich last month to consider giving them some of the $16,000 in campaign contributions Ehrlich received from Abramoff and his wife over two election cycles.

The teachers are suing Abramoff and his wife, hoping to collect pay they say they were due when the school shut down abruptly in May 2004 amid Abramoff's growing legal troubles. In a lawsuit pending in Circuit Court for Montgomery County, the teachers say they are owed about a quarter of their annual salaries, which ranged from $29,900 to $62,500.

Ehrlich's chief counsel, Jervis S. Finney, turned the teachers down in a letter Tuesday to their lawyer, James E. Rubin of Rockville. The governor "does not in any way interfere with judicial proceedings," Finney wrote. Finney added that he believed the money had already gone to charity.

Mindy Farber, an attorney for the teachers, called the response "ridiculous." She said her firm never asked the governor to interfere with the courts but simply to "give the money to the Marylanders most affected by Mr. Abramoff's fraud."

Ehrlich has sought to distance himself from donations made by Abramoff or Indian tribes he represented. Ehrlich also has faced questions about the role his deputy chief of staff, Edward B. Miller, played in a company that has been tied to Abramoff's money-laundering schemes.

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