Candidate gives back questioned donations Schrader says money was returned to avoid damage to reputation

October 09, 1998|By Gady A. Epstein | Gady A. Epstein,SUN STAFF

GOP Howard County executive candidate Dennis R. Schrader said yesterday he has returned $19,065 to 41 contributors representing 25 contractors he worked with in his job as vice president at the University of Maryland Medical System.

Schrader decided to return the contributions a month ago, after ethicists and a couple of medical system board members questioned his decision to accept more than $23,000 in contributions from more than 30 contractors while he had authority to approve most construction contracts at the Baltimore-based medical system.

The candidate, who is also a member of the County Council, said he did nothing wrong because he took care to solicit contributions only from friends and business associates he knew well. He also said accepting the money did not violate purchasing ethics because campaign donations don't benefit him personally. His superiors at the medical system, who support his political campaign, also defended him.

He accused his political opponents of spreading rumors about the contributions to smear him, and he said he chose to return donations to protect his reputation and that of the medical system.

The refunds amount to about 80 percent of the money Schrader accepted from medical system contractors. Schrader did not return contributions to businesses that haven't worked for the medical system in at least four years and to businesses whose contracts aren't under his authority. He also kept $1,700 in contributions from a close friend who works for a company that has a small contract with the medical system.

Overall, the money returned is 11 percent of the nearly $173,000 he collected by the end of August, the last date for which campaign figures are available.

In returning the contributions, Schrader sent donors a form letter explaining his decision.

"In order to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest, I am returning your contributions made during this election's four year cycle beginning November 23, 1994," he wrote. "I am grateful for your confidence and support, however I do not wish to have the Medical System harmed by my political fundraising activities."

Schrader also told the contributors in the letter that he would "no longer be soliciting or accepting contributions" from them as long as he is working for the medical system in his current job as vice president for facilities management and development. He wrote that they should disregard any more fund-raising letters "inadvertently" sent to them.

Schrader has also taken a leave of absence from the medical system for October to spend more time on his race against Democrat James N. Robey, the former police chief, to succeed Republican County Executive Charles I. Ecker.

Pub Date: 10/09/98

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