Currie reports inconsistencies in campaign account

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Associated Press

Posted on August 26, 2010 at 5:03 PM

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — State Sen. Ulysses Currie, the chairman of a powerful legislative committee who has been under federal investigation, has about $180,000 less in the bank for his campaign than the previously reported cash balance, according to late filings with the state elections board.

Gregg Bernstein, an attorney who is running for state's attorney in Baltimore and is representing Currie, wrote a letter Tuesday to the Maryland State Board of Elections explaining that the campaign is trying to find out the cause of the discrepancy in reported campaign funds and actual money in the bank.

"We only recently discovered these inconsistencies, which appear to be the result of the former treasurer's conduct," Bernstein wrote. "We are currently conducting a comprehensive investigation of the situation, and we will provide you with information concerning the results of that investigation as soon as possible."

Currie filed his financial disclosure form about a week late on Tuesday with the elections board.

Currie's financial disclosure form also notes expenditures on legal fees relating to a grand jury investigation into his former campaign treasurer, who resigned recently. It also reports $20,000 for "Legal fees on behalf of State Prosecution — Ulysses Currie." Both expenses were dated June 14.

In April, the state elections board forwarded questionable purchases from Currie's campaign funds to the state prosecutor's office after the board was not satisfied with explanations for nearly $54,000 in expenditures examined in an audit of Currie's campaign account. Those expenditures included legal fees to a law firm separate from the one that received the $20,000. Candidates can use campaign funds to pay legal fees relating to campaign accounts.

The state prosecutor's office would not confirm or deny on Thursday whether it was investigating the senator.

Paul Pineau, an attorney for Bernstein's firm that is representing Currie, also declined to comment.

Bernstein wrote that Currie's campaign was required to locate a new treasurer after the former treasurer's recent resignation. Bernstein wrote that the need to find a new treasurer prompted the delay in filing the report, and he asked the board to waive a $100 late fee.

Currie's recently filed financial disclosure form notes a June 14 expenditure of $6,501 for legal fees related to a grand jury investigation for Olivia Harris, his former treasurer. It also notes $147 in legal fees to the same firm on Aug. 3 relating to a grand jury investigation for Harris.

Gerard Martin, an attorney for Harris, declined to comment.

Federal investigators have been looking at whether Currie improperly used his office to benefit a grocery chain without disclosing that he was a paid consultant. The FBI served a search warrant at Currie's Prince George's County home and the supermarket's headquarters in May 2008. No charges have been brought in the case.

Currie, a Democrat who is the chairman of the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, is running unopposed in the primary as well as the general election for his Senate seat. Currie was elected to the Senate in 1994.

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