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Name tag switch blasted

January 19, 1999|By LAURA ERNDE

ANNAPOLIS - Two local lawmakers thought it would be fun to swap name tags at a Maryland Chamber of Commerce reception last week, but some of their colleagues don't think the joke was funny.

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Sen. Alex X. Mooney and Del. Joseph R. Bartlett, both freshmen Republicans who represent Frederick and Washington counties, said reports of the gag were overblown.

Bartlett said the two switched identities for about 10 minutes last Thursday night while they were talking with a group of legislators attending a Maryland Chamber of Commerce reception.

"If someone was offended, and I have no reason to believe someone would be, it was unintentional," said Bartlett, 28, the son of U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md.

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"I figured I'd play a joke while I had the chance," said Mooney, 27.

Del. Sue Hecht said she was approached the next day by lawmakers from across the state who were upset by the misrepresentation.

The name tag sham embarrassed a Baltimore County delegate, who made a wrong introduction that later had to be corrected, she said.

"Our business down here is too serious. Fun is fun and there's an appropriate time and place," she said.

Hecht, D-Frederick/Washington, said the impression the freshmen made reflects badly on the other six members of the Washington County Delegation.

"It makes us look very unprofessional. We can't afford slips like that," she said.

"It was intended to be a joke but I think what it turned out to be is a hard lesson," said Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington.

Del. Louise V. Snodgrass, R-Frederick/Washington, said constituents will be the ultimate judges.

"Different legislators did not see any humor in it. Everyone is responsible for their own actions and their own statements," she said.

Several other Washington County delegation members were willing to give Mooney and Bartlett the benefit of the doubt.

"I know they're very excited to be down here and perhaps they got a little carried away. I guess this is lesson number one for how to interact down here," said Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington.

At 26, Shank is younger than Mooney and Bartlett, but as a former delegation staffer he has experience they don't have in working in Annapolis.

During delegation meetings and Maryland General Assembly sessions, Mooney and Bartlett have acted professionally, said Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington.

Delegation Chairman Robert A. McKee disagreed with Hecht that the prank hurt the delegation.

"We're a delegation, but we're also individual members," said McKee, R-Washington. "They'll grow up quick. If they want to accomplish anything down here, real quick."

The conduct of legislators was the subject of a seminar Mooney attended with other members of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee on Monday.

During the "ethics and sensitivity training," lawmakers were warned about behavior that could be considered sexual harassment.

Mooney said the warning could have a chilling effect on harmless flattery.

"I was taught by my mother to compliment people on their appearance," Mooney said.

All lawmakers eventually will hear the seminar, led by a professor and attorney from Anne Arundel Community College.

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