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Senate delays vote on natural resources secretary

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Local,Maryland

ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — The Maryland Senate on Friday delayed a vote on the nomination of Joseph Gill to be the secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, after an Eastern Shore senator raised questions about a conversation the interim secretary had with the head of the Maryland Waterman's Association about a bill watermen oppose.

The Senate put off the vote on Gill's nomination until Feb. 14.

Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester, said on the Senate floor that his request to hold off on a vote was due to a conversation he was told about between Gill and Robert Brown, who is president of the waterman's association. Gill told Brown he would cut fishing quotas if the bill clarifying the natural resources department's ability to restrict fishing in certain areas didn't pass, Colburn said.

Gill, for his part, responded in a letter to Brown on Friday. Gill said he was trying to convey potential ramifications if the department did not have the authority to adjust fishing seasons by public notice. He wrote that the attorney general's office has said the department has the authority, but without it the department would be forced to establish more conservative quota allocations.

"So my intention was to convey that possible result to you," Gill wrote. "At no point did I intend for the message to come across as personal to you or any other watermen. I apologize to you since apparently you interpreted my comments differently."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, speaking in the Senate when the matter was discussed, said he hoped Gill could meet with the watermen. Miller, D-Calvert, said unlike previous natural resources chiefs, Gill worked as an assistant attorney general and may not have had as much experience working with the public as some of his predecessors had.

"Lawyers sometimes don't compromise," Miller, who is a lawyer, said. "They just want to fight, fight, fight."

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