Black delegates seek leniency for Senator Young 14 sign letter asking the Senate president to halt expulsion vote

Miller's phones flooded

vote is expected today

Ethics Probe Of Senator Young

January 16, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron and Scott Higham | Thomas W. Waldron and Scott Higham,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers C. Fraser Smith and Walter F. Roche Jr. contributed to this article.

Despite last-minute pleas for leniency, the Maryland Senate is expected to vote today to expel Sen. Larry Young for ethics transgressions.

Fourteen black delegates from the Baltimore area sent a letter yesterday calling on Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller to halt the expulsion vote, saying such a penalty would be too severe.

And hundreds of Young's supporters, prodded by talk-radio hosts, flooded Miller's phones -- both in the State House and at his home in Prince George's County -- demanding that the Senate delay the vote for a week.

But Miller was not persuaded and said the Senate needed to vote today to allow the General Assembly to get on with its legislative work.

"We intend to go forward," Miller told the Senate yesterday. "It's a difficult situation that we need to put behind us."

With expulsion seen as likely, one of Young's lawyers said the senator might challenge the move in court. A lawsuit would focus on the General Assembly's fast-track handling of the ethics investigation that prompted the move to punish Young.

Young's eight black colleagues in the Senate continued to try yesterday to persuade the West Baltimore Democrat to quit and spare them and other lawmakers a painful expulsion vote. Some of the eight senators are expected to vote to oust Young.

Young considered whether to resign, lawmakers and others said. But as of last night, they said, there were no indications that he would quit. Young was not available for comment, but one of his State House supporters, Del. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, said Young was not giving up.

'They have the votes'

"It's pretty apparent they have the votes" [to expel Young], said Mitchell, a Democrat who represents the same Baltimore district. "But he will not resign."

Young, who briefly attended the Assembly's opening session Wednesday, did not make a public appearance in Annapolis yesterday.

Senators said they were dreading the prospect of passing judgment on Young, 48, who has served in the legislature for 24 years.

"It's going to be a rough day, I can guarantee that," said Sen. Ralph M. Hughes, a Baltimore Democrat and one of a handful of senators expected to vote against expulsion.

Under the Maryland Constitution, an expulsion requires support from 32 of the 47 members of the Senate.

The vote to expel Young comes four days after the Assembly's Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics issued a scathing report that called on the Senate to vote on his expulsion.

The ethics committee began investigating Young after The Sun published a report Dec. 3 outlining how he had mingled his official position and private business affairs. The ethics panel 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.

Young has disputed the ethics committee's findings and is expected to speak about the case against him in the Senate chamber today.

Civil suit possible

If Young is expelled, one of his lawyers said yesterday, the senator might file a civil suit challenging the action as an unconstitutional breach of his right to due process.

"I think we have to go to court and argue that the vote was illegal," said attorney Gerard P. Martin.

Young's attorney said his client could argue that he was entitled to a more deliberate process. Maryland's ethics law outlines a process in which a separate investigative committee is appointed; such a committee would have had subpoena power, and the senator and his lawyers would have been able to cross-examine witnesses.

Instead, Miller relied on another section of the law that allows the Senate president to refer matters directly to the ethics committee.

Miller requested the use of that abbreviated process so the investigation could be concluded before the start of the General Assembly's annual 90-day session. Young's lawyers say their client wasn't given a choice.

However, neither Young nor his lawyers formally objected to the process when it began in December.

Young said then that he welcomed the probe and praised Miller.

"I think the president's taking the right action," Young said the day the investigation was announced. "I welcome the opportunity to fully answer these allegations."

Young spent more than five hours answering questions from the ethics committee in a closed hearing on Jan. 6. Committee members have said they gave him as much time as he needed and every opportunity to present whatever documents he wanted.

After testifying, Young said: "I am very happy that, finally, after many weeks, I've had the opportunity to present my side of the issues."

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