Young gives few papers, leader says Ethics panel receives 10% of documents sought from senator

Hearing to begin Tuesday

Legislator's lawyer says he tried to comply in short time allowed

January 03, 1998|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

The chairman of a legislative ethics committee looking into state Sen. Larry Young's business dealings said yesterday that the Baltimore Democrat and his lawyers have produced less than 10 percent of what the panel has requested for its probe.

"We don't have all the documents that we'd like to have but it's something we have no control over," said Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr., presiding chairman of the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.

But Young's lawyer disagreed with Montague's complaints and said he had tried to comply with the committee's request but was hampered by the time constraints of the inquiry.

After emerging from a closed meeting of the committee yesterday, Montague said, "I would say on a percentage basis, we got less than 10 percent of what we asked for." It was the last session before the panel meets to question Young Tuesday.

Montague, a Baltimore Democrat, declined to characterize his or the ethics committee's reaction to Young's response so far.

"We're trying to get a full picture, and a fair picture," he said. "The committee will deal with what it has. It's his election to provide us with that information -- or not provide it."

The committee does not have the authority to issue subpoenas or to compel Young to produce the documents.

The legislature's 12-member ethics committee asked Young last month to respond to 20 possible ethics violations, based on an investigation by The Sun that reported that he has used his legislative position to benefit three companies he created.

Lawyers for Young met a Dec. 24 committee deadline to submit responses and supporting documentation on the 20 allegations, but the committee has since asked for more information, Montague said.

Gregg L. Bernstein, a lawyer representing Young, said he was "disappointed" that Montague publicly aired his assessment of what has been given the committee and also disagreed with the chairman's estimate of the percentage of materials produced.

"We feel that we have made a good faith effort to disclose and produce all the documents we were able to obtain in response to the requests," Bernstein said.

He said that the committee requested additional documents on Monday and that he responded in writing, telling them "we would do everything we could to comply to try to produce more documents."

Bernstein said the committee's request for additional documents did not stem from any new allegations, but rather was a result of Young's response to the first request.

Nothing public

Montague has refused to provide The Sun with a copy of the allegations and the list of documents sought by the committee, and Bernstein has refused to make public Young's response to the panel.

Bernstein said yesterday that part of the problem in pulling documents together for the committee was the tight deadline under which the committee is working.

The General Assembly's presiding officers -- Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. -- have asked the committee to try to report back to them on its inquiry into Young's dealings before the legislature convenes Jan. 14.

"This is the problem when you put everything on such a short time-table, on arbitrary deadlines, and you have the number of allegations that have been made," Bernstein said.

"The senator certainly appreciates the time constraints the committee is working under," he said. "At the same time, they've made a request for a number, a large volume, of documents that relate to the allegations.

"In some respects we are hamstrung by that, but we are confident that we will produce all the documents that will allow us to make a full and fair presentation that respond to each of the allegations," Bernstein said.

Montague said he expected the committee to have its report completed by the opening of the legislative session.

The ethics committee is charged with determining whether legislators have violated any aspect of the state ethics law, which would amount to a civil rather than criminal infraction. An inquiry by the panel can lead to recommendations that a lawmaker be disciplined within the legislature or even expelled.

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

In an article last month, the paper reported that Young used his legislative position to benefit his companies.

Fees not reported

His LY Group, for example, received thousands of dollars in fees from Merit Behavioral Care Corp., a mental health company that does business with the state. Young did not 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.

Young also has used his taxpayer-funded district office to run his private companies, The Sun reported.

Late last month, new reports surfaced that the owner of a Baltimore ambulance company provided a $24,800 Lincoln Town Car to Young two years ago as part of compensation for work Young was doing for the company and that the senator again made no disclosure.

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

The meeting yesterday was the first time committee members had met with Jervis S. Finney, a Republican former state senator and federal prosecutor hired as an independent counsel by the panel.

Pub Date: 1/03/98

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