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Shoop to look into license issue

December 02, 1999|By SCOTT BUTKI

Washington County Administrator Rodney Shoop said Thursday officials will look into whether an assistant Washington County state's attorney and a county sheriff's deputy did anything improper by going into the courthouse after hours in an attempt to get their preferred duck hunting spots.

"We don't condone any county employee using their position to gain an advantage over anyone else. And we will take a look at this closely for improprieties," Shoop said.

Washington County Human Resources Director Alan Davis said he probably will bring up the matter at Tuesday's meeting of the Washington County Commissioners. "It is certainly something we would not condone," Davis said.

Joseph Michael, an assistant Washington County state's attorney, and Kevin Morgan, a Washington County sheriff's deputy, entered the Washington County Circuit Court building early in the morning on Aug. 16.

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Like other county prosecutors, Michael can go inside the building at any time to use the law library. He entered at about 12:30 a.m. and let Morgan in at about 2 a.m., according to Circuit Court Clerk Dennis J. Weaver.

Two other men arrived at the courthouse at 3:30 a.m. and waited outside the building to be first in line when it opened.

When the courthouse opened at 8 a.m, the two men found they were not first in line, but were behind Michael and Morgan. Weaver said he took all four men at their word as to when they arrived and awarded the licenses to Michael and Morgan. They received spots which the two men waiting outside had hoped to get near Barnes Island off Sandy Hook.

The Department of Natural Resources received a complaint and two weeks later ordered Weaver to void the licenses after determining they had been improperly issued.

Michael has said he did not unfairly use his position to get the licenses, and that he arrived at the courthouse hours before the other two men.

The dispute calls into question whether public employees who work in the courthouse have an unfair advantage over the general public on first-come, first-serve matters.

That is what Shoop and Davis say they want examined.

State's Attorney Kenneth Long said Michael had access because he is a lawyer, not because he is a prosecutor.

Long said he has dealt with Michael's actions but couldn't explain how because it is a personnel matter.

The situation regarding duck permits has been resolved because beginning next year, the Department of Natural Resources, not the court clerk's office, will issue all hunting licenses in Maryland, Long said.

Michael and Morgan did not return phone calls Thursday.

Sheriff Charles Mades could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Staff Writer Brendan Kirby contributed to this story.

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