Miller gives Young a choice Relinquish income or chairmanships, city legislator is told

December 10, 1997|By Thomas W. Waldron and William F. Zorzi Jr. | Thomas W. Waldron and William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers Ivan Penn, Scott Higham and Michael Dresser contributed to this article.

Calling possible ethical violations by Sen. Larry Young a "cancer" on the legislature, Maryland Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller sternly instructed Young yesterday to stop doing business with health care firms or lose his chairmanship of a powerful health care oversight panel.

Miller said he was acting in response to an article last week in The Sun showing that Young has received thousands of dollars in fees and other payments from several health care companies, even as he heads the Senate Finance Health Subcommittee that oversees issues important to those firms.

"You can do one or the other but you can't do both," said Miller, a Prince George's Democrat, who described his message to Young as an "ultimatum."

Miller said that Young could also stand to lose his chairmanship of the Executive Nominations Committee, which must approve hundreds of the governor's patronage appointments.

"I'm saying, 'You can keep your positions, your chairmanships, pending the outcome of the ethics committee investigation, or you can keep your outside sources of income, but you can't do both,' " Miller said.

In an interview last night, Young said he would do as Miller had directed.

"The president of the Senate has made this request of me, and I will move forth with exactly what he has asked of me," Young said.

Meanwhile, the legislature's ethics committee formally launched its investigation of Young yesterday, drafting a letter to the Baltimore Democrat outlining some 20 potential violations of state ethics laws that were suggested in the newspaper article, according to sources familiar with the panel's work.

The 12-member panel met for more than two hours behind closed doors to discuss the case.

In its letter, the committee asks Young to provide documents related to his business affairs, according to the head of the committee, Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr., also a Baltimore Democrat.

Montague described the letter as a "concise summary" of matters addressed in the article in The Sun. The committee has asked Young to submit documents by Dec. 19 and to appear Jan. 6 to present his side of the story.

Young has denied any wrongdoing and said he welcomes an ethics inquiry.

The ethics committee is expected to present its findings to the Assembly by Jan. 14, the beginning of its annual 90-day session.

In a three-paragraph letter to Young yesterday, Miller wrote: "I know that you share my belief in the integrity of the Senate, and the sanctity of this 362 year old institution."

"Towards this end, and in order to address the appearance of conflicts of interest on your part as the General Assembly conducts its inquiry, I am requesting that you immediately resign from representing, and cease any business relationship you may have with, any health care related entities," the Senate president wrote.

Miller said his action yesterday would not preclude other steps he might take after he receives the ethics committee's report.

"I believe in due process and, until the senator is tried, or at least heard, I want to give him the benefit of the doubt," Miller said.

"But I want to remove, in my opinion, an obstacle to the public believing that something's not being done -- because it is."

While Miller was attempting to rein in Young yesterday, he acknowledged that he had not taken firm action earlier despite knowing at least some details of Young's business dealings.

Miller has said he asked Young about his financial affairs last summer after receiving complaints from other legislators that Young may have been inappropriately using his office to drum up business.

A few days later, Young outlined his financial affairs in a three-page letter to Miller.

That letter mentioned, for example, that Young was doing consulting work with Coppin State College -- a matter that Miller said was disturbing after he read details in The Sun last week.

Miller has said he did not focus intently on the letter and put aside the complaints from other lawmakers.

"I've got to have a charge or a signed affidavit to bring in someone" for an investigation, Miller said.

One health care firm that has paid Young to do consulting work, Merit Behavioral Care Corp., said last week that it was canceling its contract with Young at the end of the month.

It is not clear what other work Young may be doing for health care companies.

State higher education officials canceled Young's consulting arrangement with Coppin last week and launched an investigation into how the contract was awarded.

Pub Date: 12/10/97

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