Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan has named a new state prosecutor to head an office that investigates political corruption: Charlton T. Howard III.
Howard currently serves as an assistant attorney general overseeing the statewide child support enforcement program. Previously, he was a criminal prosecutor in Baltimore and served as executive assistant director of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. He’s a 1980 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy.
“The Office of the State Prosecutor is essential to ensuring honesty and transparency in government,” Hogan, a Republican, said in a statement Friday. “I have every confidence in Mr. Howard’s abilities to root out corruption and serve as a strong advocate for the people of Maryland.”
The appointment is for a six-year term; his start date has not been set. Howard’s salary will be $164,333 a year.
Howard could not be reached Friday afternoon for comment.
The position of state prosecutor was created in 1976 to investigate wrongdoing by public officials, including elected officials. It was created at a time of heightened attention to public corruption, including the Watergate scandal that brought down Republican President Richard Nixon and a bribery scandal that led to the resignation of Nixon’s vice president, former Maryland Gov. Spiro Agnew.
Over the years, state prosecutors have prosecuted scores of officials, from well-known politicians like former Democratic Mayor Sheila Dixon of Baltimore, who was convicted in 2009 of taking gift cards meant for the poor, to unsuccessful low-level candidates who put false information on their campaign finance reports.
One of the office’s most high-profile cases didn’t end in a conviction. In 2000, State Prosecutor Stephen F. Montanarelli ended up dropping wiretapping charges against Linda Tripp, who famously recorded phone calls with Monica Lewinsky that exposed Lewinsky’s sexual relationship with then-Democratic President Bill Clinton.
The state prosecutor’s office can initiate investigations, and also can respond to requests from the governor, attorney general, the General Assembly, the state Ethics Commission and state’s attorneys. The office reviews potential violations of ethics and elections laws, as well as bribery, misconduct, extortion, perjury or obstruction of justice cases involving public officials or government employees.
Earlier this year, the office opened an investigation into sales by former Democratic Mayor Catherine Pugh of Baltimore of her self-published “Healthy Holly” children’s books. Hogan requested the investigation after The Baltimore Sun reported on Pugh’s deals to sell the books to the University of Maryland Medical System, where she was on the board, and companies with business before the city.
State Attorney General Brian Frosh said he thinks Howard is well-suited to the mission of state prosecutor, though he laments the loss of a top official from his office.
“He’s smart, tough, experienced, independent,” said Frosh, a Democrat. “He’ll do what he thinks is right and you can’t ask for more than that.”
Frosh used a baseball analogy to describe Howard’s multiple talents: “He’s one of those guys who can run, throw, field, hit, hit for power.”
Frosh was a member of a commission that reviewed 18 applicants for the job and selected two finalists for the governor to consider, Howard and Michael Dunty, a criminal prosecutor in Baltimore.
Dance served jail time for failing to disclose income from part-time consulting work for a company that did business with the school system. Leopold was sent to jail for misconduct in office after being accused of using county staff to carry out political and personal tasks.