Hutchinson named to trust that doles out bay money

February 16, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer

Despite her well-documented difficulties managing her own money, Essex Del. Leslie Hutchinson, a Democrat, has been named to represent the House of Delegates on the Chesapeake Bay Trust, a body that distributes up to $800,000 in taxpayer money each year.

House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, chose Ms. Hutchinson on the recommendation of Torrey C. Brown, state secretary of natural resources. She will replace Del. George W. Owings III, D-Calvert, who asked to be replaced, Mr. Taylor said.

But Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey, R-Baltimore County, the House minority leader and a gubernatorial candidate, said of the appointment: "You've got to be kidding. It's blatant political, boondoggling patronage. I think our citizens deserve better."

Ms. Hutchinson said she was unfamiliar with the trust but was eager to become the House's official member, Dr. Brown said.

"My district surrounds the bay," Ms. Hutchinson said last week. "I'm very interested in environmental issues."

The appointment was made official in a letter dated Feb. 2.

Mr. Taylor said yesterday that Ms. Hutchinson's well-documented debts and traffic violations do not mean that her professional efforts should go unrewarded.

"My job as speaker is to be aware of the quality of work here in the legislature," he said. "The personal lives of members is none of my business."

Mrs. Sauerbrey said members of the bay trust must have good judgment and demonstrate good values, especially because the 19-member board decides how to distribute tax money. The trust has received about $5 million from the Chesapeake Bay license tags sold by the Motor Vehicle Administration.

Ms. Hutchinson has "displayed a significant inability to manage her money," Mrs. Sauerbrey said, adding that personal and professional judgments about money are "very related."

Ms. Hutchinson said she was disappointed by Mrs. Sauerbrey's comments.

"It's a shame that Ellen Sauerbrey is running a gubernatorial campaign on my back," she said. "Those were very political statements. It's unfair."

Ms. Hutchinson has had run-ins with the MVA over the last few years for failing to have insurance on her car and failing to appear in court. She also has failed to pay debts to hoteliers and landlords in Annapolis, several of whom have petitioned the General Assembly for help in collecting. Her legislative wages are being garnisheed by court order to force her to make payments on her car, a 1989 Cavalier convertible.

In April, an MVA investigator caught her driving with a 1970 House of Delegates license tag issued to her uncle, Donald P. Hutchinson, a former legislator and Baltimore County executive.

In September, she was convicted of driving without insurance and driving on a suspended driver's license. For that, she was fined $1,500, given a 14-month suspended jail term and put on probation for three years.

Despite expressions of contrition, she appealed to Circuit Court, a move that delayed imposition of five points on her driving record. Last month, she said she appealed the convictions because she was terrified that she might have to go to jail if she got so much as a parking ticket during her probation.

On Friday, she said that she had decided to drop the appeal, which was scheduled for a hearing Feb. 18.

Ms. Hutchinson said she has worked hard to improve her image, has paid all of her outstanding debts and has apologized for her behavior to every member of the house.

"I've come down here and worked hard, and I have my head up," she said.

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