Young's forced exit Senate expulsion: Maryland legislators' extreme step was warranted by the facts.

January 17, 1998

IT CAME DOWN to a matter of overwhelming evidence in the state Senate's case against one of its own, Larry Young of West Baltimore. By a 36-10 vote, the senators expelled Mr. Young for ethical lapses so egregious they "brought dishonor upon. . . the Maryland General Assembly."

In expelling a member of the legislature for the first time in 200 years (other than times when lawmakers have been convicted in court of criminal offenses), senators reluctantly concluded that they could no longer tolerate the kinds of sleazy practices Mr. Young had been engaged in.

Expulsion was the appropriate response to the joint ethics committee's finding that Mr. Young used his considerable legislative influence "to leverage tens of thousands of dollars" for his private, profit-making companies.

Mr. Young, however, has not conceded he did anything wrong. He and his supporters still do not grasp that the ex-senator went far beyond the bounds of acceptable conduct when he profited from his public office. The senator collected more than $250,000 in consulting fees and other payments from Coppin State College, which could account for no work that he performed, and from numerous health care companies with business interests before the General Assembly.

There's no question Mr. Young and his supporters are correct when they say that politics played a role in the harsh judgment imposed on him by his colleagues. But Mr. Young has only himself to blame. This is not the first time he has been called to account for his ethical lapses. Ten years ago, it cost him a powerful chairmanship in the House of Delegates; this time, the penalty was banishment from the Senate for the rest of the current term.

Now Mr. Young must do what is best for the citizens of the 44th Legislative District he has served for 23 years. The time for political maneuvering and inflamed rhetoric has passed. Mr. Young's former constituents are without representation in the Senate. He has the power, through his control of the local State Central Committee, to see that a new senator is selected quickly. Otherwise, the 44th District's citizens will have no say in Senate decisions during the current General Assembly session.

In this society, there are standards of conduct against which all of us are judged. Embodied in the law are a particular set of expectations of elected leaders. As Maryland's Public Ethics Law notes, "the people have a right to be assured that the impartiality and independent judgment" of their leaders "will be maintained."

Mr. Young broke the public trust. He has suffered the consequences.

Pub Date: 1/17/98

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