Young to lose Senate posts Miller supports expulsion

Baltimore legislator used his position for own gain, panel says

'Betrayed the public trust'

Young disputes report, lawyer says

may respond today

January 13, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron and William F. Zorzi Jr. | Thomas W. Waldron and William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF Sun staff writer JoAnna Daemmrich contributed to this article.

The General Assembly's ethics committee recommended yesterday that Sen. Larry Young be stripped of virtually all his legislative influence and face a vote on expulsion from the Senate after finding he "betrayed the public trust" by using his office to benefit his private businesses.

After receiving the committee's report, Senate President Thomas Mike Miller and 16 other ranking senators decided unanimously last night to support the expulsion of Young in a vote that would likely come next week.

In the meantime, Miller said he would take the extraordinary step of denying Young a seat on any General Assembly committee, a move that would essentially end the West Baltimore Democrat's influence on legislation.

Miller said he would follow through on another of the panel's recommendations and take two committee chairmanships away from Young, including a key post overseeing health-care legislation.

Miller and the Senate leadership were left little choice by the devastating report by the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, which was produced behind closed doors in the last week. The report's strong recommendations startled legislators, particularly its call for a vote on expelling Young.

"Senator Young's behavior manifests the worst fear that citizens have about the officials they vote into office: that our officials will use their position of authority and power to benefit themselves financially to the detriment of the broad-based interests of the public," the ethics committee concluded in its 22-page report.

"In using his office intentionally as described in this report, Senator Young has brought dishonor upon the institution of the Maryland General Assembly."

Miller, after emerging from a two-hour meeting with his &r lieutenants in leadership, said: "This is one of the worst moments of the Senate's history."

Young's attorney, Gregg L. Bernstein, said the senator had no comment last night and would likely issue a statement today. He said, however, that Young disagreed with the committee's findings.

"He is very disappointed," Bernstein said. "Frankly, based on this report, it does not reflect what he told the committee or the information that we presented."

Bernstein added that expulsion would be "grossly disproportionate to the facts."

"How he wants to respond to that will be a decision he will make after consulting with his advisers, his family, his constituents and his attorneys," Bernstein said.

The ethics committee's action lays the groundwork for what could be a bitter vote on expelling Young.

Miller and other key lawmakers last night urged Young to resign to spare the Senate an agonizing disciplinary vote on the expulsion resolution.

"It is certainly in his interest and in the interest of the Senate to resign his seat," said Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman, the Baltimore Democrat who heads the Budget and Taxation Committee. "I don't have any doubts that, with the unanimity of leadership, these resolutions will pass."

Sen. Clarence W. Blount, the Democratic majority leader in the Senate and a mentor of sorts to Young, also suggested that Young could save his colleagues from having to vote on expulsion.

"I hope it won't come to that," Blount said.

The ethics committee's investigation was sparked by an article last month in The Sun that outlined how Young had used his legislative position to generate income for himself and businesses he created.

The committee report essentially confirmed the newspaper's account. In its investigation, the committee found:

Significant problems with a no-bid consulting contract Young had with Coppin State College in 1996 and 1997. The report showed that the agreement was a verbal one between Young and Coppin President Calvin W. Burnett that sometimes paid Young at a rate of $300 per hour.

Legislators said they could find little evidence that Young did any work to justify the $34,500 the college paid him. Besides, they said, whatever Young did should have been an unpaid part of his official legislative duties.

Young received what amounted to an illegal gift from a Baltimore ambulance-company owner who purchased a $24,800 car for Young in 1995. The panel said Young had not repaid Willie Runyon, owner of American Ambulance and Oxygen Co., any of the cost of the car.

Young illegally solicited gifts from companies, many of which had concerns before the health care committee he heads, to finance some of Young's private activities.

The newspaper's investigation also prompted a criminal investigation into Young's business affairs by the State Prosecutor's office, a probe that is continuing.

Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr., chairman of the ethics committee, said Young, in many cases, had acted deliberately.

"It was clear as we went through this there was no inadvertence," said Montague, a Baltimore Democrat. "He was very aware of his activities and he chose not to deal with them in the appropriate manner."

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