Veteran lawmaker offers his own 3-hour defense His arguments also raise new questions

Senate Expels Young

January 17, 1998|By Walter F. Roche Jr. and Scott Higham | Walter F. Roche Jr. and Scott Higham,SUN STAFF

Larry Young laid the groundwork for a potential court challenge of his expulsion from the Maryland Senate yesterday, but at the same time raised new questions about the outside consulting business he's been running out of his district office.

Acting as his own attorney and chief witness, the 48-year-old from West Baltimore repeatedly cited a letter and other evidence he said the Joint Legislative Ethics Committee had failed to consider when deciding to recommend his removal.

"I believe that this letter completely exonerates me," said Young, citing a Jan. 8 letter written by Coppin State College President Calvin W. Burnett.

In his defense, Young also said that one of his duties while working as a $300-an-hour Coppin State consultant was to persuade a New York businessman to make a philanthropic donation to provide scholarships for needy students at the state-supported school on North Avenue.

The businessman, Young said, was Albert Waxman, who heads Merit Behavioral Health Corp. That firm also was paying Young $300 an hour under a consulting contract with the senator's for-profit firm, the LY Group.

Young spent nearly half of his three-hour presentation defending the consulting work he did for Coppin State and Merit. The ethics committee concluded that Young violated ethics laws and rules by failing to report those two consulting deals. Young and the corporations he controls collected $34,500 from Coppin and $115,400 from Merit.

One of the committee's findings involved his work for Merit. Young argued that finding was based on a lobbyist's mistake. He said Ira Cooke registered as a lobbyist for Merit -- even though the company had terminated him.

"He erroneously put down Merit," said Young, adding that the committee issued the finding because members believed Merit had a registered lobbyist in the state and therefore had an interest in legislation in the General Assembly.

Not treated fairly

He also told senators that he was not being treated fairly and that he had been denied due process because Senate leaders wanted his case decided quickly. He said he was not given the chance to confront his accusers.

"There were a number of things that weren't considered. It's just not fair," said Young, calling the process "a rush to judgment and, frankly, an illegal act."

Young and his lawyers are weighing a court challenge that may (( be based on the fact that the ethics panel did not follow a procedure spelled out in state law for considering ethics violations. Under that process, Young noted repeatedly, he would have been able to subpoena witnesses and confront those testifying against him.

"There has not been a full and thorough review by an investigative body," said Young. "I did make mistakes," he conceded, adding that he simply did not realize he was required to report the Coppin contract to the ethics committee.

"My business is, for all purposes, gone. I did not do well there," said Young. "I'll take my hit as a man, but I believe this is a technical violation at worst."

The 24-year veteran of the General Assembly conducted his defense by giving a point-by-point refutation of the charges, peppering his rebuttal with questions posed to Sen. Michael J. Collins, a Baltimore County Democrat, the co-chairman of the ethics panel.

Collins repeatedly defended his panel's findings. He said, for instance, that the committee could find no evidence that Young did the work to justify the $34,500 in fees he collected from Coppin.

The chairman also contested Young's claim that he was unaware of the reporting requirements under the ethics law. He noted Young had made proper disclosures in the past.

'You had due process'

Collins also dismissed Young's claims that had been denied his rights, stating, "Senator, you had due process."

Young said the Jan. 8 letter from Burnett to the chairman of the ethics committee exonerated him because it showed that Burnett approached him about the consulting work. He insisted that his work for Coppin was sporadic and not a long-term arrangement, another key legal issue.

Collins said the committee never received the letter. Still, he said it wouldn't have been factored into their deliberations because Burnett discussed his role in the contract, not Young's, and it did not reveal exactly what work the senator did for his $34,500 in taxpayer-funded fees.

"It's inconceivable to me that it exonerates you," Collins said.

State Sen. George W. Della Jr., a Baltimore Democrat, then asked Young why he had a consulting contract with a publicly funded college in the first place.

"I was interested in getting some work," Young replied. "I saw myself doing some things different than the normal leveraging and linking and being of assistance."

Young said he wanted to go into business for himself and in April 1996 started the LY Group, a consulting company, which he ran out of his district office.

"For 23 years I worked for other people," said Young. "I had the opportunity, and I took it."

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