Bartenfelder detective spies on Howard CAMPAIGN 1994

September 21, 1994|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer Dan Thanh Dang contributed to this article.

The race for Baltimore County's 6th District council seat has gone undercover.

Democratic challenger Joseph Bartenfelder hired a detective last month to spy on incumbent William A. Howard IV and his family. He said he wanted to prove that the Republican chairman of the County Council lives in his wife's Harford County townhouse and not in the Carney townhouse that he lists as his home.

Mr. Howard denied the charge.

"I am a resident of Baltimore County," Mr. Howard said yesterday, criticizing Mr. Bartenfelder for "sinking to the level of having my wife and kids followed. This is a very dangerous individual. If he were a decent person he would have called me. He decided to play J. Edgar Hoover."

"He's trying to deceive the public," Mr. Bartenfelder said yesterday of the incumbent. "As far as I'm concerned, you reside where you sleep."

The county charter requires council members to live in their districts and says that any member who moves away during a term automatically is out of office.

Mr. Bartenfelder, a member of the House of Delegates who lives in Perry Hall, said he believes that Mr. Howard doesn't qualify for his seat.

To prove his contention, Mr. Bartenfelder hired Courtney Holt, a Bel Air private detective, whose operatives shadowed Mr. Howard and his family during most of August.

Mr. and Mrs. Howard said yesterday that they maintain separate residences and that Mr. Howard legally resides in a rented townhouse in the Carney section of Baltimore County.

He said he spent more nights than usual at the Harford County home in Abingdon last month because his wife had noticed "someone snooping around," and was fearful. They have two children, age 2 years and 10 months.

Two neighbors of the Carney townhouse in Baltimore County said yesterday that they believe Mr. Howard lives there. They said they see Mr. Howard there frequently, and his wife and children less often.

Robert T. Schwaderer Jr., 42, said Mr. Howard is around almost every day.

Two neighbors of the Abingdon home in Harford County said they rarely see Mr. Howard, but they see his wife and children more often.

"For the past three weeks, I've been feeling that someone's been following me," Mrs. Howard said. "This was a horrifying experience."

She said she spoke to a man at 6 a.m. one day after seeing him with a videotape camera in front of her home. He offered a lame explanation of his presence, she said.

"We have nothing to hide," she said.

"Bill lives in Baltimore County. That's the cost of politics."

W. Michael Seganish, a Towson lawyer and campaign manager for Mr. Bartenfelder, said the Howards were not followed by the detective. "He didn't follow anyone around," Mr. Seganish said. "All we did was monitor the house. He [Mr. Howard] is a very naive young man who thinks that voters will buy that cockamamie story. I don't think he understands what we have against him."

Both Howards said that Carmel la Runci-Howard, a nurse, bought her home in 1987 when she was single. After marrying Mr. Howard in August 1991, she found the recession had reduced the value of her home and she couldn't sell it for a profit.

Since Mr. Howard is required by county charter to live in Baltimore County, he kept an apartment and later moved to Carney, they said. They said they have baby equipment in both places and stay in both, depending on convenience.

"She bought that house on her own," Mr. Howard said. "I'm not going to force her to sell her house at a price she didn't want to." Mrs. Howard said she improved the home and didn't want to rent it for fear that renters would damage it.

The Howards said they hope to eventually be able to afford to move to a larger dwelling for the whole family.

Mr. Seganish said the private detective's report showed that Mr. Howard was at the Abingdon house with his wife and children on 13 nights in August, and that he was videotaped coming out of the house with his 2-year-old son the morning of Aug. 17, shortly after his wife left with their baby in a separate car.

The detective's agents visited the Carney house several times, Mr. Seganish said, and each time Mr. Howard was not there.

The detective concluded that "Mr. William A. Howard IV's home residence is with his wife and children" at the Harford County residence.

"His wife and kids live there and he stays there with her," Mr. Bartenfelder said. "The whole thing down here is bogus -- just a front, a mail drop."

All parties agreed that Mr. Howard's address is listed in Carney with the state Motor Vehicle Administration, while Mrs. Howard's address is listed in Harford County.

Mr. Howard said he files income taxes from his Carney address. He said his council job, his small real estate business and his own residence are in Baltimore County.

Mary Lunden, the Maryland assistant attorney general who advises state elections officials, said Mr. Bartenfelder can challenge Mr. Howard's residency through his voting registration, which would require the county elections board to hold a hearing, or he could go straight to Circuit Court.

A 1984 attorney general's opinion lists 20 criteria by which to judge legal domicile.

These include voting registration, MVA registration, tax filings, business dealings, property ownership, employment, banking and business dealings, mail deliveries, frequency of visits and where the person is best known.

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