Mann levels charges at Gray CAMPAIGN 1994

September 09, 1994|By James M. Coram | James M. Coram,Sun Staff Writer

Democrat Kathryn Adair Fish Mann, who hopes to unseat County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray in Tuesday's primary, accused the three-term incumbent yesterday of illegally using a bulk mail permit to distribute his campaign literature.

Ms. Mann also chided Mr. Gray for having a car telephone bill over the past year that was disproportionately higher than those of other county officials and for failing to attend a June town meeting on local crime.

Mr. Gray bristled at the charges.

Ms. Mann "is understandably grasping for issues," he said. "She has no programs, no proposals for basic services to people, so she is offering these types of things."

Ms. Mann, a Democratic Central Committee member and former chairwoman of the county Planning Board, leveled her charges against Mr. Gray during a news conference yesterday morning to air her plan for dealing with juvenile crime.

Regarding the bulk mail permit, Ms. Mann said her opponent's campaign committee "direct mailed a campaign flier reminding us of his good citizenship -- for which they used an illegal, nonprofit bulk mail permit. The nonprofit permit confers an even deeper discount than is given for regular bulk mail.

"Not only has Dr. Gray raised tens of thousands of dollars for this campaign," said Ms. Mann, "his committee has also pocketed the few extra cents a legal permit would require."

Mr. Gray said his committee has done nothing of the kind. He does not know how a recent mailing happened to say "Nonprofit Organization" on the permit, he said, since earlier mailings with the same permits bore no such designation.

"I have spoken with postal officials and told them I will pay the difference, if there is one, because of the mistake," he said.

Ms. Mann also criticized Mr. Gray for his car phone bill and released documents showing his calls accounted for 20 percent of the county's $24,000 bill for 44 car phones.

Of those 44 users, the entire Fire Department totaled $5,700 and the Police Department totaled $2,400 over the last 13 months, Ms. Mann said. Mr. Gray's bill was $4,800.

"Averaging his charges per minute, Dr. Gray spent 23,385 minutes on this phone -- 390 hours -- nearly 10 working weeks," Ms. Mann said. "If the taxpayers of Howard County weren't already paying for this prolonged conversation, they might get him one of the T-shirts that says, 'Help me -- I'm talking and I can't shut up!' "

Mr. Gray responded to that criticism by saying, "My car is my office. We are part-time council members, even though I work over 60 hours a week" on county business. He said that commuting to Morgan State University, where he is a professor of political science, is 40 minutes each way.

"I have a little notebook, and I write numbers down," he said. "I believe in returning calls promptly. I always try to get back to people as soon as possible. The car phone has been a great help. I used to have to stop at phone booths all over the state."

Ms. Mann's third charge was that "despite this ample use of mail and phone, Dr. Gray did not once call the community association representing the largest part of his district to ask about our problems with crime," especially juvenile crime.

Of her three charges, that one seemed to sting Mr. Gray the most.

"I don't take a back seat to anyone when addressing the issue of crime," Mr. Gray said. "I am keenly aware of what's happening. I helped get a [police] substation in Stevens Forest. I've always supported community policing. I don't have to call a press conference on crime; I take action."

Mr. Gray said he did not attend the June town meeting on crime in Long Reach because he was not invited. "I am no stranger to what she's talking about," he said. "I know the people who live in the neighborhood. I have taken action to deal with some of these problems."

Mr. Gray dismissed Ms. Mann's remarks as a last-ditch attempt to gain publicity five days before the primary.

After talking about Mr. Gray, Ms. Mann moved on to the issue of juvenile crime, standing outside the Phelps Luck Neighborhood Center under a banner that read, "The Mann Plan -- good kids and safe streets now."

Ms. Mann said she has talked with "hundreds of people" who have told her that juvenile crime is "the single, most important issue they want their County Council member to address." She chose the Phelps Luck center as the setting for her remarks, she said, because numerous acts of juvenile vandalism have occurred there.

Ms. Mann said she intends to address the juvenile crime issue with a five-point program that begins with treating repeat juvenile offenders like adults.

"After two convictions for violent, destructive or sexual offenses, a young person under the age of 18 will be tried as an adult," she said. "This should offer a real deterrent to the problem of recidivism."

She wants a police officer and a sheriff's deputy to team up and "adopt a school" so that "students and faculty will no longer be ZTC strangers to the men and women who protect our streets and the police will get to know our children."

The challenger also wants government, civic organizations and county businesses to offer incentives, such as summer jobs, credit toward college costs or discount shopping coupons, to young people who graduate from high school with clean criminal and driving records.

She wants the state to deny driver's licenses to repeat juvenile offenders and would require parents or guardians to attend counseling or pay a "stiff" fine.

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