Ya shoulda listened, Gary

Dan Rodricks

July 24, 1991|By Dan Rodricks

We told him. We told him. We told that Gary Huddles. But did he listen?

Five years ago, he could have resolved this matter and ridden off quietly into his political sunset, enjoying a new life outside the roar and tumult of the public arena -- if Baltimore County government can be said to have roar and tumult -- and he could have lived in peace as nothing more than a good-looking man in a nice suit.

But did he listen?

It appears that he did not listen.

And now look . . . Gary Huddles is in trouble -- if, all things being relative, an indictment against a former politician on theft and misappropriation of campaign funds can be considered trouble.

Huddles withdrew from public life in 1986, opting not to do what many had expected this intelligent, charismatic man to do: Run for something beyond Baltimore County Council. He coulda been somebody. He coulda been county executive. He coulda been a congressman.

Instead, what did he get?

He got a bad case of Levittitis -- that is, an image infection caused by association with savings and loan swindler Jeffrey "Seven Desserts" Levitt.

You'll recall that shortly after Levitt, that crook, came crashing down with Old Court Savings and Loan, it was disclosed that one of the persons who had benefited from Levitt's free hand with other peoples' money was Gary Huddles. Levitt had loaned the councilman $60,000 unsecured, and three years later, when the press publicized this fact, Huddles acknowledged that he had not made any payments on the loan since 1982.

Frankly, it didn't look good.

And Huddles knew that. The man was handsome, but he wasn't stupid. He knew that many of his very own constituents were so inflamed by the Old Court scandal that they would scourge anyone who had played patty-cake with Jeff Levitt.

So Huddles did the right thing. He repaid the loan, with interest, immediately.

Still, he must have known that he had reached the expiration date on his political career.

By 1986, Huddles was taking his quiet, embarrassed bows from politics. There would be no run for county executive.

Which prompted a question in this space of Aug. 22, 1986: What Should Gary Do With The Loot?

The "loot" referred to the thousands of dollars Huddles had raised toward a run for county executive. Before the Old Court scandal -- and his connection to Levitt -- broke in the press, Huddles had held fund-raisers. He had raised $115,000.

But what to do with the loot?

He wasn't running for anything. And because Huddles had not designated his fund-raising committee a "continuing" committee, he was prohibited from using it for future political campaigns. He could hold it indefinitely, according to the strange state law at the time, but he could not use it for another political campaign.

Of course, as we all know, that was a moot point, anyway. For Gary Huddles, the campaigning stopped the day his Levittitis flared up.

So -- and we kept coming back to this question -- what was Gary to do with the loot?

Many of you wrote in with suggestions. Some told Huddles to give the money back to his contributors right away. (If he could pay Jeff Levitt back, he could certainly pay back some of his honest friends.) Some told him to give it to charity. A few suggested that he give it to the Democratic Party, which was one of his options at the time.

Huddles thought we were poking fun at him, and he didn't appreciate it. He called and said so.

Apparently, he was so offended at our informal survey that he didn't listen to a single word of advice.

This is what I am left to assume because, as I mentioned earlier, Gary Huddles is in trouble and the trouble is connected to that money left over from the days when he had a political future.

According to Monday's indictment, Huddles transferred some of the money to a personal account and used it to cover margin calls on his stock investments when the market crashed in October 1987.

This, says the indictment, was illegal -- even though Huddles eventually put the money back into his campaign account, even though he reported the transaction last summer -- only three years after it occurred! -- and even though he eventually (1989) returned $30,000 to contributors and gave another $60,000 to charity.

Great, but too late.

Huddles shoulda acted sooner. He shoulda dumped the loot back in 1986. He shoulda listened to us.

Instead, what does he get?

An indictment.

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