Mitchell gets angry over report on son STATE HOUSE REPORT

April 04, 1993|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,Staff Writer

House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. said yesterday his son should not have used his name to pressure a state official on a business matter. But the speaker angrily added that the press should not be scrutinizing his family's business dealings.

"It looks like my son can't make a living in this state anymore," Mr. Mitchell snapped to a reporter. "Should I not have children? Should they not make a living? What does it take for me to be in this profession [politics]?"

Mr. Mitchell was upset about news reports last week about his lobbying for an insurance bill that would help a Baltimore medical clinic represented by his son's employer. The legislation would require all drivers to have insurance that would pay some of their medical bills if they were injured in a car accident.

One business that would benefit from such legislation, Metropolitan Clinics, is represented by lobbyist Maurice R. Wyatt. Mr. Wyatt employs Mr. Mitchell's son on a commission basis in his real estate firm.

In the latest development in the controversy, a state insurance official, Martha C. Roach, said yesterday that Mr. Mitchell's son asked her last June to speed up payments from her agency to Metropolitan Clinics.

Ms. Roach, executive director of the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund, said the younger Mitchell, also named Clayton, told her the clinics were owned by a friend of his father. And he also told her he was calling on his father's behalf, Ms. Roach said.

"I'm not sure he used my name," Speaker Mitchell said in response yesterday. "If he did, it was improper."

But in comments reported by the Washington Post yesterday, the speaker did not express any doubt about his son's action. "It won't happen again," he told the Post.

The younger Mr. Mitchell could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, his father lashed out at the news media. "You may nothave me to pick on anymore in a few days," he told The Sun yesterday. When asked if that meant he wouldn't be speaker anymore, he replied, "You'll just have to judge from my statement." He then walked away.

Two of his lieutenants in the House called the speaker to clarify the remark after being told about it by a reporter.

After talking to the Eastern Shore Democrat, the two delegates said Mr. Mitchell did not intend his comment to leave the impression that he wanted to resign the speakership.

"He feels the newspapers are unfairly picking on his family," BTC explained Del. Timothy F. Maloney, D-Prince George's.

The speaker has been lobbying for legislation that would require motorists to have either medical insurance or extra auto insurance -- called personal injury protection -- to cover their bills if they are injured in an accident.

By helping to ensure that medical providers receive payment for their services, the bill would benefit Metropolitan Clinics, among other businesses.

The corporation's president is Arnold Praver, a friend of the speaker. Mr. Praver did not return phone calls made to his Maryland and New York offices Friday.

The clinics' lobbyist, Mr. Wyatt, has said the younger Mr. Mitchell does not help him lobby, and that he would not benefit personally if the bill passed.

Speaker Mitchell argues that, if the bill becomes law, hospitals and state government would be stuck with fewer unpaid medical bills. He has repeatedly denied that he was using his influence to help Mr. Praver, Mr. Wyatt or his son. He said the bill's opponents are trying to draw attention to his family connections in order to scuttle the measure.

Those opponents include the insurance industry and the Maryland Automobile Insurance Fund, which say the bill would force them to raise insurance rates for some drivers. The fund insures high-risk drivers who cannot obtain coverage from private companies.

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