Mike Miller's false alarm Larry Young probe: Senate President's ultimatum was full of sound, fury, little else.

December 12, 1997

ALL THAT SMOKE in Annapolis this week was only partly from the spectacular Main Street fire. Some also was manufactured by the Senate president, Thomas V. Mike Miller, in a transparent effort to cover up his own inattentiveness.

Mr. Miller issued a self-described "ultimatum" to Larry Young, the Baltimore state senator whose ethical conflicts in health care and higher education were detailed in The Sun last week. Mr. Miller said he told Mr. Young he would have to choose: He could continue his consulting work with entities that do business with the state or keeping his chairmanships of the Senate Finance Health Subcommittee and Executive Nominations Committee, which approves gubernatorial appointments. "You can do one or the other, but you can't do both," Mr. Miller said.

If that sounded like thunder, it was just Mr. Miller banging pots and pans.

First, Merit Behavioral Care Corp. of New Jersey, which has paid Mr. Young's LY Group $46,300 since 1996, had already announced cancellation of its contract with the senator, following the sour publicity.

Second, if Mr. Miller believed that his fellow Democrat's actions threatened the "sanctity of this 362-year-old institution," why would he suggest that Mr. Young could keep the contracts if he forfeited his committee posts? Is Mr. Miller saying that committee leaders should be pure, but plain old senators can do whatever?

Third, Mr. Miller needs to look aggressive because he sloughed off this problem when other lawmakers made him aware of it last summer. After Mr. Young explained his business arrangements, the Senate president apparently stuffed the response in a drawer, hoping it would vanish. Months later, it has blown up on him.

The ethics committee hopes to conclude its investigation of Mr. Young's dealings by the time the legislature convenes in one month. If further study is required, will Mr. Young retain his positions under a cloud? The Senate leader's illusory chest-beating will be forgotten if Marylanders see firm leadership in pursuit of the truth about Mr. Young.

Pub Date: 12/12/97

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