From the Baltimore Sun

IWIF job interests Curran
Attorney general considers next step

By Jennifer Skalka
Sun reporter

December 29, 2006

As outgoing Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. packed his belongings into boxes yesterday in his increasingly empty Baltimore office, he said he is looking at potential job prospects and would be willing, if approached, to serve as temporary president of the Injured Workers' Insurance Fund.

The agency has terminated its relationship with former state Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, president and CEO since 2002 of the state's largest insurance fund for injured workers. Facing federal public corruption charges and due to go to trial in March, Bromwell's last day will be Sunday.

"As I am leaving in another few days, it is suddenly obvious that Mr. Bromwell is also leaving in another few days, and they may be looking for someone to either fill in temporarily or play a role there while they look for someone who wants to be there long-term," said Curran, the state's longest-serving attorney general, who did not seek re-election this year.

"The coincidence is that my entire legal career was in insurance. I said, gee whiz, maybe things happen in a different way, but that is something that I could be interested in."

Curran, 75, said he was not ready to elaborate about the conversations he has had about the job, saying only: "I have had some people express some interest." He called the opportunity "exciting."

Daniel E. McKew, chairman of the fund's board, said he had not heard of Curran's inclination. "It is absolutely news to me," he said.

McKew, who is serving as interim president until a replacement is selected, said the nine-member board will meet next month to establish criteria for the job.

"While insurance knowledge and workers' compensation knowledge is important and high on the list, the main quality that we look for is leadership," McKew said.

Fund board members are appointed by the governor, but the organization's president is chosen by the board.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a rumored potential contender for the job, put that rumbling to rest yesterday.

"I am not considering the IWIF job," said Busch, who was in negotiations to take the position in 2000 but decided to stay in the legislature.

Busch said Curran could stand in while the board interviews other candidates.

"If the board believes Joe Curran in the interim can give the agency stability and credibility in Annapolis, that may be an appropriate direction to take, but I do think they need to look for a long-term solution for the management of the company," he said.

Del. Dereck E. Davis, chairman of the House Economic Matters Committee, said Curran's relationship with Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley, his son-in-law, should not affect whether the attorney general is considered to lead the fund.

"Joe Curran has a strong reputation in his own right and certainly does not need his son-in-law to find him a job," said Davis, whose committee handles workers compensation issues.

"For me, that is not an issue at all. If Joe is interested, and he is the selection, I definitely think that is a positive," Davis said.

Incoming House Minority Leader Anthony J. O'Donnell, a Republican from Southern Maryland, said he would like to see "some youthful and innovative new leadership" at the workers' fund, and "not necessarily someone with a lifetime of political connections."

"I am not sure that is the right direction to head in at this time," O'Donnell said.

The $200,000-a-year position is expected to prompt several suitors, state lawmakers said yesterday. And Curran, who said he is determined to continue working, is weighing other options.

The attorney general said he has been approached by representatives from the University of Baltimore and Loyola College about teaching public policy classes.

He said he has also had conversations with officials at his alma mater, the University of Baltimore School of Law.

Curran said that in addition to teaching, he hopes to advocate on the national level for those issues about which he cares deeply, notably for handgun control and against the death penalty.

And he said he will advise O'Malley when his counsel is sought - but only in private.

One thing is certain as Curran sits in a chair in his office wearing a white shirt and tie and dark slacks just five days before his successor, Democrat Douglas F. Gansler, is sworn in: He is leaving office, but he has no interest in retirement.

"From setting up pins in a bowling alley, to being a caddy, to newspaper boy, to bank clerk, to the Air Force, I have always had a job," Curran said.

"And suddenly I am going to wake up and what should I do today? Hmm, not sure. ... I have got to do something, I intend to do something."

With his exit from the attorney general's office after two decades in the job, Curran, a Democrat, closes the latest chapter of a half-century career in public life.

Born in Florida and raised in Baltimore, a product of the heavily Catholic Govans neighborhood and the Curran family's Irish political machine, he has served in the House of Delegates and state Senate and as lieutenant governor.

His white walls were bare yesterday but for a painting created by his wife, Barbara.

Curran marveled at the political and personal goodies he stumbled upon in packing up his 20th floor office: the unused tickets to John F. Kennedy's Jan. 20, 1961, inauguration (his wife had given birth two weeks prior), his own baby bootie, papers from his mother's estate.

A committed liberal, Curran - a father of five and grandfather of 11 - said yesterday that he has few regrets.

He is not sorry for supporting abortion rights even though he once was chastised in church by his pastor.

He stands by his early - and then-unpopular - opposition to the Vietnam War. (And he does not support the war in Iraq, either.)

If there is anything to lament, Curran confessed yesterday, it is a matter that is out of his control. The years are progressing - and not even the voters can make a difference on that count.

"You realize, where did the time go?" Curran said.
Copyright © 2006, The Baltimore Sun