Schrader broke no law, solicitor says Savage Mill partner heads election campaign

January 09, 1998|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Councilman Dennis R. Schrader's failure to disclose that Savage Mill's managing partner is co-chairman of Schrader's campaign for county executive before voting to approve restructuring a loan to that mall is not a violation of ethics laws, according to the county solicitor.

First reported in yesterday's Howard County Times, Schrader's failure to reveal his relationship with Steven Adler before his vote on Dec. 1 still drew criticism.

County Solicitor Barbara M. Cook, whose office advises the county Ethics Commission, noted that county ethics laws center on whether an elected official reaps some financial benefit from a vote or any other legislative effort.

"I just don't see that the ethics law applies here at all," Cook said. "There's no relationship between him [Adler] and Dennis that involves any kind of economic gain."

But Councilman Darrel E. Drown, asserted that Schrader should have disclosed the relationship and recused himself from the vote.

"In politics, you run into fuzzy lines and when you run into one of those lines, you should disclose it," Drown said. "I think he missed the boat on this one."

Schrader is a candidate for the Republican nomination for county executive. Drown backs Councilman Charles C. Feaga in that race.

Schrader said that following Drown's policy would have set a bad precedent.

"Does that mean that anybody who does business in the county or with the county can't sign up to volunteer for a campaign committee?" Schrader asked. "I think that's a slippery slope."

Schrader, who has accepted political contributions from Adler, said he feels "vindicated" by Cook's interpretation.

"There's nothing wrong here," Schrader said. "Nobody's gaining anything."

For his part, Adler said he is confused by the sudden attention.

"I don't see what the big deal is," he said.

The relationship between Adler and Schrader began two years ago when Schrader was introduced to Adler, who joined the Savage Mill Limited Partnership, which owns Savage Mill, in 1995.

Battling economic hardship, the partnership successfully applied for a $900,000 loan from the county and state in 1991. The loan, which was to be paid back over the next 15 years, included $600,000 from the state's Industrial and Commercial Redevelopment Fund and $300,000 from the county.

Only recently has the mall begun turning a profit, and the partnership has turned to upgrading Savage Mill, Adler said.

To do that, the partnership asked the county to accept smaller payments over the next several years and defer larger payments to the latter stages, Adler said.

County Executive Charles I. Ecker agreed and asked the County Council to approve the restructuring, which passed 5-0 on Dec. 1.

Schrader participated in the vote and did not tell other council members about his relationship with Adler nor that he has accepted about $1,000 in political contributions from the partnership and Adler himself.

Adler said that he did not influence Schrader before he voted.

"At the time when it went be- fore the council, I never discussed the loan with Dennis," said Adler, who added that he is a volunteer in Schrader's campaign. "If I was asking him for favors or getting paid by him, there would be some legitimacy to those concerns, but I'm just a volunteer."

Pub Date: 1/09/98

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