Woman convicted of misusing charity law
A Silver Spring woman has been convicted of violating the state's charitable organization law for accepting $150,000 to restore a wetland but never doing the work, the state attorney general's office announced yesterday.
Dianne Pearce, 53, of Silver Spring was sentenced last week in Worcester County Circuit Court to 14 days in jail, a one-year suspended sentence and five years' supervised probation. She also was ordered to pay $116,000 in restitution to the state's Nontidal Wetland Compensation Fund.
The case dates to 1997, when Perdue Farms entered into an agreement with the Maryland Department of the Environment to settle a water pollution violation by restoring an Eastern Shore wetland. Perdue agreed to deed the 90-acre wetland to an environmental trust and pay $150,000 for the work. MDE hired Pearce's nonprofit group, Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary.
But an investigation revealed that Pearce spent or transferred the $150,000 from the sanctuary's account to her own account and never did the work, according to the attorney general's office.
As part of her probation, Pearce must transfer the property to a group that can do the restoration, and she is barred from serving on any charitable organization's board for five years.
Former worker denied payment
The state Board of Public Works denied a former Department of Assessments and Taxation worker $404,862 from a wrongful termination lawsuit, saying court records suggested his firing was justified.
The former employee, David Reier, won a judgment against the state from the Maryland Court of Appeals this spring in his drawn-out legal fight over his firing a decade ago. An administrative judge then found he was owed $404,862 in salary and benefits.
But Steve Sullivan, the acting chief of litigation for the attorney general's office, said the court's decision in Reier's favor was based on an interpretation of the procedural requirements to fire Reier, not the merits of his case.
Reier, who attended yesterday's meeting, said the evidence against him was the product of perjury.
"If you think I was fired for work performance, I've got some property to sell you up in Brooklyn," he said.
But Comptroller Peter Franchot said the facts, as determined by the courts, were against Reier. He quoted from a court finding that Reier had failed to follow orders or display any effort on the job. Gov. Martin O'Malley joined Franchot in voting against the award. Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, the third member of the board, abstained.
"We should not be sending a $404,000 check to somebody who showed a total lack of effort," Franchot said.
Andrew A. Green
O'Malley vows to check renewals
Gov. Martin O'Malley promised yesterday to scrutinize renewals of contracts approved during his predecessor's administration to make sure they include sufficient participation by minority firms.
Arnold Jolivet, president of the American Minority Business and Contractors Association, questioned the renewals of four contracts for commuter bus services, which he said went forward with no minority business participation during the administration of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
"What you're seeing today is just the beginning of the iceberg of contracts that's coming before you in the next 12 months," Jolivet said.
Deputy Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley said the decision to renew the contracts was made under the previous administration, and there wouldn't be time to re-bid them before current contracts expire at the end of the month.
O'Malley, a Democrat, asked the Department of Transportation to negotiate with the contractors and to encourage them to bring on minority subcontractors, but Jolivet said it's unlikely those companies or others will comply with Maryland's minority contracting goals unless the state makes them.
"It's just tragic that $30 million will be spent and not a dime will go to minority firms," Jolivet said. "It boggles the mind."
Former Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who headed up Ehrlich's minority business efforts, said his administration made significant progress in expanding opportunities for minority- and women-owned firms by creating set-asides for small businesses.
"Our commitment was huge," Steele said. "We took a moribund, out-of-date, 30-year-old system that had been neglected and paid lip service to and turned it into a vibrant, opportunistic program for small-business owners."
Andrew A. Green
: Bel Air
Trial reset in killing of inmate
A state prison inmate charged with strangling another inmate aboard a Division of Correction bus will go on trial in May, a court has ordered.
Kevin G. Johns, 24, who is serving time for two murders, is accused of killing Philip Parker Jr., 20, aboard a bus that was taking inmates from Hagerstown to Baltimore on Feb. 2, 2005.
Johns' trial is to start May 5 in Harford County Circuit Court, according to a letter Judge Emory A. Plitt Jr. sent to lawyers last week.
The trial was scheduled for July but postponed by a dispute over whether the state could seek the death penalty if Johns were convicted.