Md. Rejected Offer to Cut Tobacco Fee, Angelos Says
Lawyer Peter G. Angelos said yesterday that he offered to accept a $500 million payment for representing Maryland in its suit against cigarette companies but that the state rejected his demand that it spend an equal amount to computerize classrooms throug
As a result, Angelos said yesterday, he has continued to press his claim for more than $1 billion, or 25 percent of the state's share of the national tobacco settlement. The state is expected to collect more than $4.4 billion over 20 years.
Angelos, who owns the Baltimore Orioles, said his offer to accept half of the 25 percent fee called for in his contract with the state was refused by Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) and state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran (D).
"They've never made me an offer," he said.
When Angelos made his proposal to accept a lesser fee, he was "completely refused," he said.
State officials yesterday disputed his story.
Curran sued Angelos in December after Angelos refused to seek his fee through an arbitration panel established by the national settlement. That is how all the other lawyers representing states in the litigation were paid, and Curran said it was only fair that Angelos receive his money from the tobacco industry.
Angelos countered that he had a contract with the state and had no obligation to seek his money elsewhere. But he did say that if the state settled with him, he would represent Maryland before the arbitration panel to recover the money paid him.
For the first time yesterday, Angelos said that before the state's lawsuit he had offered to cut his fee in half if the state would spend the money it saved to "computerize every classroom in the state, public and private." Angelos said the money also could have been used to teach computer programming for all high school students.
With that offer rejected, he described his position as: "I have a contract. My goal is see that the state honors the contract."
Angelos's contract calls for him to receive 25 percent, although two years ago the General Assembly voted to cut his fee in half. Angelos disputed the legality of that move and said his willingness to accept half was not an admission that he accepted the legislature's vote.
Deputy Attorney General Carmen Shepard said there had been negotiations with Angelos over his fee. She referred questions to Glendening's office.
"Mr. Angelos has not discussed such an offer with the governor during their meetings," said Glendening spokeswoman Michelle Byrnie. "At this point, the governor is not involved in the negotiations. He would like to see as much money as possible spent on cancer research, anti-smoking programs and education."
Glendening is to sign into law the guidelines for spending the tobacco money on just such programs today.
The dispute over Angelos's fees now is in Baltimore Circuit Court and scheduled for trial in January. In the meantime, Shepard said the state would go directly to the national arbitration panel to seek Angelos's fees within two weeks.
Angelos said that such a move would be a "serious mistake" and that state officials must settle with him first.