Don't prejudge Empowerment Zone official

August 03, 1996

AS A MEMBER of the advisory committee of the city's Empowerment Zone, I should like to protest your July 30 editorial, wherein you speculatively pre-judge and then urge the firing of Leonard Jackson Jr., elected chairman of our committee.

To predicate an editorial opinion on ''an apparent case of forgery," followed by ''If there is evidence," doesn't seem to me to be fair -- to Leonard, our committee and the entire Empowerment Zone program.

First, Leonard Jackson has demonstrated competent leadership and knowledge of the program from its inception to the present time, as well as our future goals, all consistent with Baltimore's urban progress.

Second, it seems to me that whatever happened relative to the execution of a $6,500 check, it is more likely an aberration in procedure, more so than a reflection on the character of Leonard.

Many times in government or private business, a custom or understanding develops that, while not dishonest, is not prudent. For example, a superior who permits or allows a practice for the purpose of expediting a process that is not procedurally correct, as long as it is done with permission -- both explicit and implicit.

Regardless, until found guilty by an administrative or judicial RTC body and until then, Leonard Jackson is entitled to a presumption of innocence. In the meantime, I agree with you that immediate steps be taken by the Empowerment Zone board to tighten any lax financial procedures within our agency.

Let me assure you that this program is not in ''disarray'' and we members are performing our duties and making substantial progress as the rest of your editorial points out.

Samuel A. Culotta


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