Senate expels young Fellow legislators call 36-10 vote agonizing

Baltimore Democrat concedes 'technical' ethics violations

'We will win the war'

January 17, 1998|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF Sun staff writers JoAnna Daemmrich, Michael Dresser and Scott Shane and news assistant Jill L. Kubatko contributed to this article.

In a wrenching vote that lawmakers said was the most agonizing of their careers, Larry Young was expelled from the Maryland Senate yesterday for using his public office for private gain.

The Senate voted 36-10 to expel the West Baltimore Democrat, the first time in 201 years that a Maryland lawmaker has been removed by his colleagues.

After the result was known, Young sat quietly in his chair for a few moments, then walked through a phalanx of photographers and out of the chamber where he has served for a decade.

Young declined to comment to reporters in the State House.

But within minutes of the vote, he took to the radio from a phone in the Senate lounge and vowed defiantly to return to elected office.

"The best way I can phrase it is, they believe they have won the battle," Young said on WOLB-AM.

"We'll show them that we will win the war."

In defending himself for nearly three hours before the vote, Young, 48, admitted he had made some "technical" mistakes but said there was no deliberate wrongdoing.

"I believe I have done nothing wrong to warrant this," said Young.

But most senators did not agree, and the expulsion resolution received four more votes than the 32 necessary.

The ejection came after the legislature's ethics committee concluded that Young broke ethics laws by blending his official duties with his private businesses.

Young remains under criminal investigation by the state prosecutor's office.

Sources said yesterday that the FBI has launched its own probe. That will be coordinated by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Baltimore, which has the power to convene a grand jury.

By the time the vote was cast yesterday, some senators were in tears and most appeared drained.

The outcome also exposed a vivid racial rift over the severity of Young's ethics transgressions.

Only two white senators voted against expulsion, while eight of the nine African-Americans, including Young, did.

The ninth black senator, Delores G. Kelley, a Baltimore County Democrat, said she was torn and abstained.

"This is the toughest decision in my life I have had to make," said Sen. Clarence W. Blount, the 76-year-old Baltimore Democrat, who said he stayed up most of the night before deciding at 5

a.m. yesterday to vote against expulsion.

"It's the only vote I've really agonized about."

Young, who made history in 1983 as the first black committee chairman in the General Assembly, is the first legislator to be ejected since a member of the House of Delegates was ousted in 1797.

In a remarkably accelerated pace that some of Young's backers called a "rush to judgment," the Senate vote came only four days after the Assembly's Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics issued a scathing report on Young's ethical missteps.

The panel found that Young abused his office and betrayed the public by using his legislative title for personal gain. It recommended that the Senate consider expelling him.

The committee found, for example, that Young had entered into a no-bid consulting arrangement with Coppin State College, which paid him $34,500 in the past two years.

The panel could identify little if any work Young did for the money, and Young failed to report the arrangement, as required, to the ethics panel.

The ethics committee launched an investigation into Young last month after an article appeared in The Sun on Dec. 3 detailing how the senator had capitalized financially on his legislative office.

After yesterday's vote, Gregg L. Bernstein, one of Young's attorneys, called the expulsion "harshly unwarranted."

Speaking on the State House steps, Bernstein said the debate revealed that some senators seemed confused about state ethics laws and reporting requirements for lawmakers.

Young, he added, was considering going to court to challenge his expulsion.

"The senator has had a very difficult week," Bernstein said. "He's going to go home. He's going to get a good night's sleep and we're going to discuss our options."

Gov. Parris N. Glendening, who has counted Young as one of his closest allies in the General Assembly, issued a brief statement: "Today's events are certainly unfortunate."

Within minutes of being expelled, Young was launching his political comeback.

"I would hope that the state central committee would consider me as a candidate" for the vacant Senate seat, Young said on WOLB.

The Senate expulsion resolution was drafted specifically to remove Young for "the remainder of the current four-year term," which expires next January.

But Young and his attorneys have discussed challenging that clause in court as unconstitutional.

If the central committee nominated Young and he won a speedy court decision, he could, in theory, return to the Senate. Most of the members of the central committee are loyal to Young.

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