PSC member used state account for sexual messages


Charles R. Boutin, a member of the Public Service Commission, apologized yesterday for using his state computer account to exchange sexually oriented e-mails with a prostitute.

In a written statement, Boutin, 64, a former Republican delegate who was appointed to the commission last year by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., acknowledged that his conduct was "morally wrong and I am ashamed and deeply sorry."

Boutin's admission was made as the Harford County Sheriff's Office said it intended to release thousands of e-mails and documents it obtained as part of its criminal investigation into Valerie Fletcher, a Baltimore County woman who pleaded guilty last month to one count of prostitution.

Boutin, who is married and has three children, said he sought out the woman in an effort to cure impotency, which he said he developed shortly after being successfully treated for bladder cancer.

"I discovered a web site on the Internet offering sexual conversations," he said in the statement. "I exchanged 13 e-mails with a woman who was the subject of the police investigation in Harford County. We had several brief telephone conversations. Some of the e-mails discussed fantasies."

His lawyer, Augustus F. Brown, who provided the statement, said the e-mails were sent from Boutin's legislative account.

Boutin said in his statement that he had arranged a meeting with the woman but changed his mind. "I committed no criminal act," he said

A former mayor of Aberdeen, Boutin represented Harford and Cecil counties in the House of Delegates from 1999 until 2005, when he was appointed to the Public Service Commission. The governor declined to comment yesterday, and PSC Chairman Kenneth D. Schisler did not respond to a phone call placed the previous day.

Last year, Boutin was ranked by the Maryland Family Values Alliance as one of the most "family values-friendly legislators in Maryland," based on his voting record. "In today's world, family values are very important in our community, and I will continue to strive to support them in the future," he said in a statement on his legislative Web site.

Harford County deputies learned in the fall that Fletcher, 47, was operating an Internet escort service under the name Traci Morgan and observed her meet a man at the Best Western motel in Edgewood. After her guilty plea in Harford County District Court, she was sentenced to 18 months' probation. Asked about Boutin's statement last night, she said, "I have no comment."

Robert B. Thomas, a spokesman for the Harford County Sheriff's Office, said Boutin was never charged in connection with Fletcher's arrest. His e-mails were among thousands recovered from her computer during the investigation. Brown said there was also a page from her calendar that lists his name on a particular date along with a "notation" indicating a sex act.

"Basically, there's no information that we have linking him to a crime," Thomas said. "He was not a suspect in any investigation. The case is closed."

Brown, who is Boutin's personal attorney and a close friend, said that Boutin made a mistake and that he "holds him in the highest regard.

"It's such a personal thing and a very private thing that has absolutely no bearing on his competency as a commissioner," Brown said. "But he was afraid the story would lead to more rumor and innuendo, and would be so offensive to his wife that he wanted to present his side."

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