Election mailing accuses alderman 3 anonymous letters sent to Ward 1 turn city campaign ugly

October 31, 1997|By Dan Thanh Dang | Dan Thanh Dang,SUN STAFF

An anonymous mailing to Ward 1 residents alleging personal and professional improprieties by Democratic Alderman Louise Hammond and her husband, Anne Arundel County Financial Officer John Hammond, has Annapolis voters and politicians reeling with shock.

The three letters received yesterday in a single mailing accused Mrs. Hammond, who is up for re-election Nov. 4, and her husband of involvement in a hit-and-run accident and other alleged offenses.

They also criticized Republican mayoral candidate Dean L. Johnson for being "a mole" for County Executive John G. Gary and John Hammond.

The letters suddenly turned what had been a quiet city election ** into a nasty display of negative campaigning.

Both outraged mayoral candidates, Johnson and Democrat Dennis M. Callahan, denounced the letters as the lowest point of the election at a community meeting last night. Mrs. Hammond said she began getting calls about the letters yesterday morning, and many people at the meeting had received them.

The letters united the two mayoral contenders at the start of what appeared to be becoming a heated dispute about mayoral campaign literature.

Earlier yesterday, Callahan issued a statement denouncing his opponent for putting out a campaign flier Wednesday that began in bold lettering: "If we ignore the history, we will repeat the mistakes of the past. Remember the days of Callahan?"

It went on to attack such Callahan statements as calling for elimination of the city Fire Department when he was mayor.

But the Ward 1 mailing could have more serious consequences than a denunciation. The city Elections Board is likely to ask for an investigation by the state's attorney's office, said Chairman Richard E. Israel. It is a crime under city election law to circulate campaign literature anonymously.

"It is the single worst piece of mail I've seen since being in this community," Callahan said. "I will call upon the city Democratic -- Committee to offer a reward. I'm calling for a bipartisan effort to get to the bottom of this. Our campaign will contribute $1,000 to find the people responsible."

The three letters along with a bumper sticker that reads, "Just Say No!! Tell the Hammonds NO," came in a prestamped business-size envelope with a green Liberty Bell stamp. Mailed in Annapolis, the envelopes had no return address; a sticker on the back quoted President John F. Kennedy: "If we make peaceful revolution impossible, we make violent revolution inevitable."

Inside, a letter on pink paper titled "Who Dunnit" offers an article from the Capital newspaper about a hit-and-run accident March 1 that resulted in the death of a 29-year-old Glen Burnie man. The article says police are searching for a dark minivan, "possibly a Plymouth Voyager or Dodge Caravan," with front-end damage fleeing the accident scene.

The letter continues by stating that John Hammond "also drives a dark colored minivan with wood paneling similar to hundreds of others around the County. Have there been any repairs to that minivan recently?"

The "Who Dunnit" letter also alludes to county Police Chief Larry W. Tolliver, although not by name, by saying, "Oh and don't forget who's in near daily contact with the County's Chief of Police Powerful people perks."

Two other letters in the mailing listed 30 reasons why voters should vote against the Hammonds in Tuesday's election under the heading CUTTHROAT, for Citizens United to Toss the Hammonds Right Out of Annapolis Today.

The accusations against the couple ranged from "trying to force out and often outright terminate the jobs of selected officials and other county employees."

The letters also criticized Louise Hammond for what it called her "confused, and apparently disoriented" knowledge of city issues and waste of taxpayer money.

Attacking other candidates as well, the letters accuse Johnson of being supported by the "Hammond-machine" and alludes to "under-the-table deals" and "special favors" he promised to them for their support.

The letters also urge residents to vote for anyone but Louise Hammond in the election, suggesting the name of her Republican opponent, Robert L. Malone, and other write-in candidates, including Democratic state Sen. John C. Astle's wife, Jane. Both have lived in the Historic District for more than 25 years.

"This is the work of somebody who has a sick and twisted mind," said John Astle, who attended a joint meeting last night of the Murray Hill and Presidents Hill community associations and residents of Ward 1 to voice his anger.

"They think that just because they have the cloak of anonymity, they can send a time bomb into people's homes," he said.

"What really angers me is that they are dragging innocent people into this," Astle said.

"To drag my wife's name in there is outrageous. I don't condone this."

Pub Date: 10/31/97

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