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Questions raised about Maryland state prosecutor's charges

When the Maryland state prosecutor's office files charges against a public or political party official, it typically issues a news release. On March 16, for example, State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt — appointed by Democratic former Gov. Martin O'Malley — issued a news release almost immediately after charging the former treasurer of the Cecil County Republican Central Committee with theft and perjury.

But it took Davitt more than two weeks to announce a March 25 theft charge filed in Kent County against a former Chestertown City Council member — Mabel Mumford-Pautz, who has hired former Attorney General Douglas Gansler, a fellow Democrat, as her attorney.

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Davitt — whose position is independent — once worked for Gansler in the attorney general's office. In addition, Mumford-Pautz's son, Mark L. Mumford, has been the Democratic Kent County Circuit Court clerk for 25 years.

Even though the case was displayed in online court records as being filed in Kent County on March 25, Davitt had not announced it and Mumford said it did not exist in that county.

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All of that caught the attention of Joe Cluster, executive director of the Maryland Republican Party, who said he found the delay "rather interesting," given the Gansler and Democratic Party connections.

Davitt said such criticism was "totally unwarranted."

So why the delay?

It turns out Gansler had filed a motion to seal the record. He said that was meant "to avoid pretrial publicity while both sides are trying to resolve it" with a possible plea deal.

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In addition, Kent County's administrative judge recommended that the case be moved to a different county. On April 8, after the case was formally transferred to Cecil County, Davitt issued a news release.

Mumford-Pautz is charged with felony theft between $10,000 and $100,000. The charging document accuses her of "writing numerous checks payable to herself or to 'cash' while she served as a treasurer" of the Eastern Shore chapter of the Maryland Municipal League, also called the Eastern Shore Association of Municipalities. The maximum penalty is 15 years and a $15,000 fine.

"The treasurer of an association holds a position of trust, and is relied on by its members to use association funds only for appropriate purposes," Davitt said. "When a treasurer betrays that trust by stealing association funds, it is a reprehensible offense that cannot be tolerated."

The comments eased Cluster's worries. He said he was glad that Davitt's office was bringing charges against people in both parties.

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