Leslie Hutchinson's Troubles

July 19, 1993

Del. Leslie E. Hutchinson of Essex has received editorial support from this newspaper before. We endorsed her candidacy for the House of Delegates in 1990. We called her "courageous" when she was among a handful of Baltimore County legislators who supported the governor's budget plan last year. (We were also appalled by some of her actions in support of ex-Judge John Arnick.)

But any support for her politics takes a back seat to disgust over her ethics and behavior.

Two weeks ago, Delegate Hutchinson brushed aside criticism about her having sent letters to state officials offering them the services of her new party-planning firm. She said she wasn't seeking to wield undue influence, only to jog people's memory of her. Her solicitation seems in sharp conflict with an 11-year-old ethics advisory opinion that warns legislators not to "use the title of senator or delegate for any commercial purpose."

Then last week came a report that the delegate didn't appear in court to face traffic charges -- for the seventh time in three years. She eventually arrived 45 minutes late for a hearing on a citation that she was driving around in an uninsured vehicle with House of Delegates tags issued to her uncle in 1970. She explained she had confused that hearing with another one on a charge of driving on a suspended license.

There's more: She ran up obscene legislative expense accounts. She didn't file timely campaign finance reports as required by law. County police say she quit her job with their department to avoid disciplinary action. And, she's left a wake of angry creditors and former landlords.

Delegate Hutchinson tries to explain some of it away as the residue of money troubles. Since losing her county job, she's banged her head against the wall searching for work, like many folks in her blue-collar district.

Even if one were inclined to feel sympathy for Ms. Hutchinson -- and we're not -- lawmakers can't be lawbreakers. She traded on her family's name to win election -- her grandfather Preston, father David and uncle Donald, the former Baltimore County executive, were in politics. Now she's ruining the General Assembly's good name.

The perks and power of being a legislator come with obligations; if Ms. Hutchinson can't abide by them -- or obey the law -- a career in politics isn't right for her.

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