The tragedy of Larry Young Wayward legislator: He would best serve his West Baltimore constituents by resigning rather than face humiliating expulsion vote.

January 14, 1998

MEMBERS of the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics in Annapolis may have surprised even themselves in the harshness of their recommendations on state Sen. Larry Young, who they found had inappropriately mixed his private business dealings with his public duties as a state lawmaker.

Senate leaders swiftly endorsed the entire committee report, making it all but inevitable that the West Baltimore lawmaker will be expelled from the Senate next week -- if he does not voluntarily give up his elected office before then.

The committee's stern recommendations, and the Senate leaders' determination to carry them out, are unprecedented in modern Maryland history.

They underline the stunning scope of the improprieties uncovered by the panel involving Mr. Young's overlapping business and legislative activities. In essence, he used his pivotal position in the General Assembly to leverage tens of thousands of dollars from health-care groups and Coppin State College. He betrayed the public trust.

Yet committee members made it clear they were deeply distressed by the actions they were recommending.

During his 24-year legislative career in the House of Delegates and state Senate, Mr. Young demonstrated a level of commitment to his constituents that was admirable. He worked assiduously to help his impoverished Baltimore district.

But he failed to adhere to a code of conduct expected of any elected official. Now he must take responsibility for his actions.

At this crucial juncture in Mr. Young's life, he faces an emotionally wrenching decision. Some of his supporters -- unwisely, in our opinion -- urge him to stay the course, to fight his expulsion to the bitter end, even though the outcome appears certain.

By far the most sensible step would be for Mr. Young to conclude his lengthy career in the General Assembly while he still can leave with his dignity more intact. A prolonged Senate debate detailing all the flagrant violations of ethics laws could humiliate Mr. Young and needlessly inflame public passions.

What should be uppermost in Mr. Young's mind is doing the right thing for the constituents he has served for so long.

Even if he avoided expulsion -- which some lawmakers feel is too extreme for the alleged violations -- Mr. Young would be shunned by his colleagues, a senator without any committee assignments, incapable of helping his constituents or shaping public policy.

He would be denying citizens in the 44th Legislative District full representation, putting them at a distinct disadvantage.

That's not fair to the hard-working and needy citizens of Mr. Young's West Baltimore community.

Nor would it be in Mr. Young's personal interest to remain in office while under a cloud of suspicion and mistrust. It is time for him to get on with his life outside the State House.

He needs to turn his attention to defending himself against possible charges stemming from the state prosecutor's ongoing criminal investigation: A grand jury in Annapolis recently issued its first subpoenas for records concerning Mr. Young's dealings. He can't focus on those legal matters while fighting a rear-guard action in the state legislature during the 90-day session that starts today.

It took tremendous courage on the part of Del. Kenneth C. Montague Jr., co-chairman of the ethics committee, to recommend harsh sanctions against a fellow black city legislator -- though he felt a vote on expulsion went too far. It was not an easy task for any of the 12 committee members.

They diligently reviewed hundreds of documents, interviewed individuals, heard five hours of testimony from the senator and agonized in recent days over their conclusions. In the end, they did what was best for the integrity of Maryland's state legislature and the citizens who put their faith in the honest deliberations of this lawmaking body.

Now it is Mr. Young's turn to act with courage and integrity. He owes it to loyal city voters who have supported him in six elections to resign his position so that they can be fully represented in Senate proceedings and can receive the undivided attention of a Maryland state senator who enjoys the confidence and trust of his colleagues.

Pub Date: 1/14/98

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