A piqued Pica freaks out at wrong guy

March 22, 1995|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writer Sun staff writer John A. Morris contributed to this article.

As if struck by a glove across the face, the Democratic state senator from Baltimore felt challenged, his integrity publicly questioned by a Republican in the House of Delegates.

Sen. John A. Pica Jr. responded to the perceived insult by nearly punching the wrong Republican -- and by declaring that he didn't care what an ethics committee says about his alleged conflict in pushing a bill that could benefit his employer.

"The whole thing is unbelievable," Mr. Pica said. "I've been here 17 years and I've never seen anything like this."

The incident, played out over two days, began Monday when Del. Robert L. Flanagan, a Republican from Howard County, suggested on the House floor that legislation that would prohibit the Baltimore Orioles from fielding a team of replacement players at Camden Yards would financially benefit Mr. Pica's employer, lawyer and Orioles owner Peter Angelos.

Mr. Pica should not have voted or lobbied for the bill, Mr. Flanagan said. As a result of his complaint, action on the bill was temporarily suspended.

When Mr. Pica got word of the allegation, he charged into the House chamber just before Monday's afternoon session and accosted House Minority Whip Richard La Vay, getting nose-to-nose with the Montgomery County Republican, who Mr. Pica believed was somehow behind the Flanagan allegation.

"I lost my mind there for a second," Mr. Pica explained yesterday. "I felt a certain degree of heat take over my head. I told him that if he mentioned my name on the floor, I'd kick the s out of him."

"He came after me," Mr. La Vay said. "He looked like a man on a mission." Mr. La Vay said he told Mr. Pica: ' "You have the wrong person. I didn't drag your name into it.' But I said it is a bad bill, and that I didn't like it on its merits."

He said Mr. Pica was "right in my face" and that he thought he was about to be punched.

"The schoolboy in you comes out," Mr. La Vay said. "Part of me was hoping he'd take a poke so I could respond." Each man said he had expected the other to apologize. But by yesterday, everyone seemed to be laughing about the incident. Mr. Pica was being kidded for not being able to tell one Republican from another.

Meanwhile, the legislature's ethics committee said yesterday that its pending review of Mr. Pica's role in sponsoring the bill should not delay House consideration of the measure. The House approved the bill 86-45, and sent it to the governor for his expected signature.

Mr. Pica said the bill was drafted at the request of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, not Mr. Angelos, and he said he introduced it because he chairs the city's Senate delegation.

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