Panel reveals fresh allegations Committee says Young improperly collected some $250,000 overall

January 13, 1998|By Walter F. Roche Jr. and Scott Higham | Walter F. Roche Jr. and Scott Higham,SUN STAFF

The legislative ethics committee unveiled a series of fresh allegations against Sen. Larry Young yesterday, including one that he performed little or no documented work for Coppin State College in exchange for tens of thousands of dollars in publicly funded consulting fees.

The Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics also found that the senator, who has chaired a powerful health subcommittee, never paid for a $24,800 luxury car he received from the chief of an ambulance firm that collects hundreds of thousands of dollars in Medicaid payments from the state each year.

Overall, the committee concluded that Young and corporations he controls improperly collected about $250,000 in fees and donations from health care companies, some of them with business in Maryland. The panel found that in some cases, it appeared the senator never performed work for the money he made.

The committee members said it was "clear" that the 24-year veteran of the General Assembly used his position as a health care legislator to benefit the corporations he controls, and that he spent taxpayers' money to subsidize his private, money-making ventures based inside his West Baltimore legislative office.

The report also includes Young's first public defense of the allegations raised in an article published by The Sun last month. The paper reported that the senator was blending his public office with his outside business dealings, and that he was collecting consulting fees and donations from Coppin State College and health care corporations with business interests in Maryland.

Young told the panel that his failure to report his business dealings to the state's ethics panels was an "inadvertent" mistake. He also told them that he was unaware of the requirements of the state's ethics law, the report says.

Committee members called Young's explanation "untenable, incredible and unworthy."

'Misapplication of the facts'

Young was unavailable for comment last night. His attorney said Young did not receive a fair hearing.

"The senator wanted to be able to present all of the information responsive to the allegations in a full and fair hearing," Gregg L. Bernstein said. "Based on the report, I'm not sure he got that full and fair hearing. I think, based on my review of the report, it represents a misapplication of the facts and a misinterpretation of the law."

The committee members spent weeks sorting through two dozen allegations. They interviewed witnesses, collected documents and questioned Young for five hours last week. During the probe, committee members said they discovered more evidence of possible wrongdoing by the senator.

Coppin contract questioned

One key finding revolves around Young's contract with Coppin State College, a publicly funded institution in West Baltimore. Young received a no-bid consulting contract with Coppin in 1996 through the LY Group, a private corporation the senator controls and operates out of his district office.

Coppin President Calvin W. Burnett told the panel that he hired Young to win scholarship money for needy students, to persuade the Baltimore Police Department to move a training academy to the college, to establish a center to combat drug and alcohol abuse, and to help bolster a physician assistants program for minority applicants.

But after questioning Burnett and Young, the committee found little or no documentation to show that the senator provided any services in exchange for the $34,500 he collected from the publicly funded college. The only records they consistently found were invoices from Young and the LY Group to Coppin.

"No written contract, informal written agreement or memorandum of understanding was generated," the report says. written description or notes of the services provided by Senator Young, if any, were exchanged. No correspondence with Dr. Burnett was undertaken, and no evidence of any correspondence or other communication with anyone by Senator Young on Coppin's behalf was provided to the Joint Committee."

When the Coppin contract began in 1996, the LY Group received a month from the college. In 1997, Burnett raised the rate to $5,000 a month. When asked why, Burnett told the committee he was satisfied with the senator's services. When asked if Young had made progress on the initiatives to justify the raise, Burnett said "there had been no progress."

Young told the panel that one of his most important initiatives was Project 2000, a campaign to encourage churches in Baltimore to fund scholarships for minority students. But despite paying Young as much as $300 an hour, Burnett acknowledged to the committee that the senator failed to generate any scholarship money for the students, the report says.

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