Young takes seat as Assembly opens After 13 minutes, senator walks out, talks to supporters

'I apologize for the pain'

Senate leader offers resolution to expel him

vote is tomorrow

January 15, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron and Scott Higham | Thomas W. Waldron and Scott Higham,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers William F. Zorzi Jr., C. Fraser Smith, JoAnna Daemmrich and Ivan Penn contributed to this article.

Cheered by a throng of supporters bused down from Baltimore, state Sen. Larry Young took his seat yesterday for the opening of the General Assembly's 1998 session in the State House chamber where he will face a vote to expel him tomorrow.

Young appeared downcast as he sat in his burgundy leather chair at his Senate desk at the stroke of noon. Thirteen minutes later, he stood up and strode out.

Joining his backers outside, Young denied that he used his legislative position for personal gain and said he did nothing wrong to warrant his expulsion from the General Assembly, where he has served for 24 years.

"I apologize for the pain and the agony that have come on my mother and my community. I apologize," Young told the group gathered near a statue of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. "But I am unaware of anything that I have done, directly or indirectly, to violate any ethics laws."

After Young left the chamber, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller glumly introduced a resolution calling for Young's expulsion and said a vote on the matter would come tomorrow.

"We're going to start early and put this very unpleasant business behind us as quickly as possible, whichever way it goes," said Miller, who appeared drained by the prospect of a vote to expel a longtime colleague.

Colleagues said that Young left after it became clear that his presence was a distraction.

Even so, his appearance dominated the start of the 90-day session, forcing lawmakers to confront a damaging conflict of interest case that has distracted from critical issues facing the state and General Assembly.

The Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics recommended Monday that Young be expelled after issuing a scathing report that said the senator broke state ethics laws by blending his official position with his private business interests.

Miller and other lawmakers predicted that an overwhelming majority of the 47-member Senate would vote to expel Young.

"Certainly it's a hard time for [Young], a hard time for the Senate, and a hard time for the entire state," said Sen. Clarence W. Blount, a veteran majority leader in the Senate who has been one of Young's mentors.

"But you can't dodge the issue," he said. "It's before us."

The ethics committee, after reviewing a report published Dec. 3 in The Sun, found that Young abused his office and betrayed the public by using his legislative title for personal gain.

Young operated several corporations out of his district office and collected more than $250,000 in consulting fees and other payments from Coppin State College and health care companies with business interests in the state. Committee members said they could find little or no documentation that the senator performed any work for the money he received.

The highly orchestrated day began outside a Baltimore church and community center at 10 a.m., where nearly 70 of the senator's supporters boarded buses for Annapolis. Eleven minutes before noon, Young and some of his closest advisers strode into Lawyers Mall across from the State House.

Gathered in the shadow of a statue of Marshall, the first black Supreme Court justice, Young's supporters cheered and pumped their fists in the air, chanting, "Larry, Larry, Larry."

Wearing a gray suit, a long wool coat and black leather cap, Young clasped hands with friends and constituents. He bowed his head and after a brief prayer, began to walk to the State House.

Arm in arm and walking four abreast, the somber procession moved silently through the plaza, across State Circle, then up the granite steps to the State House.

The procession filed through a pair of double doors and spilled into the lobby, packed with politicians, state troopers and curiosity-seekers.

Young removed his overcoat and cap and walked to his seat in the Senate chamber. A list of new committee assignments placed on the desks of senators did not contain Young's name.

As recommended by the ethics committee, Miller had removed him from the Senate Finance Committee and stripped him of his chairmanships of an influential health care subcommittee and the Executive Nominations Committee.

Young sat quietly at his desk, a crowd of photographers capturing his every move. Several senators came over to shake hands. Mary Pat Bromwell, the wife of Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell of Baltimore County, gave Young a hug and a kiss.

But with cameras rolling and clicking, most senators conspicuously avoided him.

Young stayed for the opening prayer, delivered by former Washington Redskins player Ken Coffey, but slipped out minutes later. The Senate president said Young's presence in the chamber was awkward.

"I want to thank Senator Young. He continues to be my friend," Miller told his colleagues. "The mere fact he exited the chamber to avoid taking away from the election of the president shows he doesn't want to detract on this important day.

"I'm grateful to him."

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