O'Malley campaign returns contribution to wife of city landlord

ACORN criticizes mayoral candidate for accepting $1,000 check

August 26, 1999|By Gerard Shields and Ivan Penn | Gerard Shields and Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

Mayoral candidate Martin O'Malley has returned a $1,000 campaign contribution to the wife of a landlord criticized by a neighborhood group for owning scores of rundown properties.

The O'Malley campaign produced a copy of a campaign check yesterday for $1,000 that was sent to Rhonda Rochkind, wife of Stanley Rochkind.

O'Malley showed the copy to members of the Association for Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) when they arrived at his campaign headquarters to protest the donation.

Rochkind owns about 1,000 city properties, including about 100 that are vacant, according to ACORN. The 500-member advocacy group has picketed Roch-kind's house, demanding improvements to his properties. ACORN says 200 housing violations have been found at the properties.

Rochkind disputes the group's claims, saying that he has made necessary improvements, a contention ACORN challenges. Despite O'Malley having returned the check, ACORN members questioned the timing, noting that the Aug. 1 donation was cashed.

O'Malley said a member of his finance team noticed the Roch-kind name and issued a check Monday returning the donation.

The controversy came on a day when mayoral candidate Carl F. Stokes acknowledged that a federal tax lien was filed against him in 1994 for failing to pay $9,153 in income taxes for the years 1991 and 1992. With penalties and interest, the amount came to $13,798.14.

The former City Council and school board member paid the debt by 1996 and said the problems were related to a business venture.

Stokes is the former owner of Every Man's Son, a children's clothing store that was located in Mondawmin Mall in the 1980s but closed because of financial difficulties.

Stokes declined to discuss specifics of the tax problems, saying only that the matter has been settled. "My taxes are paid, and I owe nothing to the IRS," he said. "I had to sit with the IRS and come up with a plan" for payment.

The tax issue was reported yesterday in a broadcast by WBAL Radio.

Last month, Stokes admitted that he falsely claimed a Loyola College degree in his campaign literature.

Also yesterday, a new poll showed Stokes and City Councilman Martin O'Malley neck and neck in the lead for the Sept. 14 Democratic primary, as City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III continued to falter.

Gonzales/Arscott Research Communications Inc. of Annapolis conducted a telephone survey of 627 registered Democratic voters over the weekend. The results showed Stokes moving ahead with 32 percent of the vote, followed by O'Malley with 30 percent. Bell garnered 20 percent.

The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4 points, indicating a virtual tie between the leaders.

Over the past two weeks, Bell has slipped 9 points among voters, according to the poll. In the initial poll in June, Bell was in front by 16 points over Stokes.

Pub Date: 8/26/99

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