Supporters of Young hold 'Rally for Truth' About 200 backers contest allegations against legislator

December 30, 1997|By Dennis O'Brien and William F. Zorzi Jr. | Dennis O'Brien and William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

About 200 supporters of state Sen. Larry Young gathered last night at a West Baltimore church to hold a "Rally for Truth" and to dispute allegations that the legislator used his position to benefit three companies he created.

The city legislators, ministers and community leaders packed New Shiloh Baptist Church, where Young is a deacon, to hear a series of prayers and pleas on the senator's behalf.

"We are presenting the other side of the story that has not been reported," said Del. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, a colleague of Young's and spokesman for the People for Truth and Justice, the group that sponsored the rally.

Leaders of the local chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the Baltimore Urban League pledged to stand by Young throughout investigations by state officials into his activities.

"The NAACP and the Urban League will be standing strong on this particular issue," said Roger Lyons, director of the Baltimore Urban League.

Lyons told the group, gathered at the church in the 2100 block of N. Monroe St., that the U.S. Department of Energy has told him that it will audit the Urban League's use of federal grant money because of its involvement with LY, one of Young's consulting groups.

In a flier distributed last night, supporters credited Young, a Democrat, with increasing minority representation in Gov. Parris N. Glendening's administration.

"He has made it his mission to assure diverse representation on all boards, commissions and authorities and throughout the present Administration. He helps create a fabric of 'inclusion' that is the hallmark and strength of the Administration," the flier said.

Several speakers praised Young as a legislator who has worked for minorities in Baltimore and said that he is being penalized for those accomplishments.

The Rev. Rodney Orange Sr., president of the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP, recalled how when he was laid off from Bethlehem Steel Corp., Young hired him to be his chauffeur in the 1970s.

"If I never learn anything else coming up in Baltimore City, it's that you don't turn your back on a friend when there are signs of trouble," Orange said.

The rally was organized in response to a Sun article this month that detailed how Young has benefited from his legislative position, including sharing his taxpayer-funded district office with quarters for his private companies.

But Edward E. Fox Jr. of BMC Enterprises, which leased the office space to Young, last night denied the allegation about Young's sharing district and private office space. Holding up two leases for the audience, he acknowledged that he refused to show them to The Sun, at Young's instruction.

But he said that they showed Young's district office was not sharing space with his private consulting firms.

"The only commonly used space among the two offices was that of a single conference room," Fox said.

Mitchell, who like Young is a Democrat representing the 44th District, charged that The Sun deliberately left out information that would have eliminated any question about possible wrongdoing by Young.

"We're letting people determine, based on what we present and what's been alleged, what is and what is not true," Mitchell said. "We feel quite comfortable that when they get the other side of the story, they will arrive at the proper conclusions."

Mitchell questioned The Sun's "motivation" and repeated earlier charges that Young was targeted by the newspaper because he is black.

The investigation by The Sun prompted a formal inquiry by the Maryland General Assembly's joint ethics committee, as well as a separate criminal probe by the state prosecutor's office.

Young's LY Group received thousands of dollars in fees from Merit Behavioral Care Corp., a mental health company that does business with the state.

Young failed to report the fees to the ethics committee.

Similarly, he did not report receiving $33,500 he collected from Coppin State College under a no-bid consulting contract that paid him as much as $300 an hour.

State education officials recently canceled the contract.

Ten days ago, new reports surfaced that the owner of a Baltimore ambulance company bought a $24,800 Lincoln Town Car for Young in 1995, which the senator did not disclose.

Young has denied any wrongdoing in his business activities and has said he welcomes the investigation.

The legislature's 12-member ethics committee asked Young this month to respond to 20 possible ethics violations, based on The Sun article.

On Wednesday, lawyers for Young submitted responses and supporting documentation in preparation for a closed committee hearing on the charges scheduled for Jan. 6.

"We responded to each of the allegations, and we believe that we provided adequate explanations to each," said Gregg L. Bernstein, a lawyer representing Young. "The senator is anxious to meet with the committee and elaborate on the information we put in our more formal written response."

Bernstein declined to make public Young's response to the committee.

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