State Sen. Ulysses Currie, D-Prince George’s, managed to escape conviction on federal corruption charges by a jury of his peers after his lawyers paraded a string of witnesses into court who testified that Mr. Currie simply wasn’t bright enough to have pulled off such a scheme.
The criminal justice system has spoken, and puzzling though the outcome may be, we must accept it.
But we believe the Currie verdict sends the wrong message to legislators and to the public. Once again, it looks like an elected official can flout state ethics rules with impunity.
The General Assembly still has a chance to send the right message by disciplining Mr. Currie for ethics violations. It is never easy to discipline one of your own, but it is time for the legislature to act decisively in the public interest.
During Mr. Currie’s trial, his lawyers did not dispute that he received about a quarter-million dollars from Shoppers Food Warehouse for lobbying various state officials on the supermarket chain’s behalf. In fact, they acknowledged the conflict of interest — which he did not reveal on state disclosure forms for five years — but said it was an ethical lapse at worst, not a criminal offense.
The General Assembly polices itself on ethical matters, and state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. has referred the Currie matter to the legislative ethics committee.
This panel can recommend reprimand, censure or expulsion. The final decision is up to the entire Senate.
The right decision is expulsion. Mr. Currie’s failure to disclose his relationship with Shoppers cannot be pooh-poohed as some minor clerical oversight. It is a blatant violation of state ethics rules, which forbid legislators from working as lobbyists for corporations if they lobby state officials or otherwise trade on their position as lawmakers.
Mr. Currie not only did exactly that but he also bragged about it in writing to Shoppers.
Enough is enough. It is clear what should be done. Now the General Assembly must show it has the courage and political will to do it.