County OKs deal to lease building for office space

Ruppersberger ally's son listed among investors

March 20, 2001|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

In a vivid display of the influence of Baltimore County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the County Council approved last night without debate a $19 million transaction that involves the son of the executive's campaign finance chairman.

The council voted 7-0 to lease and then purchase the former Caldor building at 6401 York Road for office space for state and county employees.

Last week, after questions were raised by The Sun and a county councilman, officials released a complete list of partners in the project. Steven J. Sibel holds a 10 percent stake in 6401 York Road Associates LLC, the list showed, and Arthur H. Adler has a 20 percent share.

Sibel is the son of Hanan "Bean" Sibel, Ruppersberger's longtime campaign finance chairman and chairman of the county revenue authority, which owns and operates golf courses and parking facilities. Adler is the son-in-law of Howard Brown, a prominent developer.

Ruppersberger and other officials have said they did not know before last week of Sibel's and Adler's involvement. The participation of politically connected investors, they said, did not affect the transaction.

No council member raised a word of objection during the public portion of last night's meeting. Council members are hesitant to cross the executive, who praises the "teamwork" of the county's elected officials and who also holds sway over the county budget and projects in councilmanic districts.

After the meeting, several council members said they would have liked to have known about the partners earlier.

"I think [the deal is] to the financial advantage of the county," said Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county-Owings Mills Republican. "The county had nothing to hide, but because we failed to come forward, it creates doubt in the public's mind."

Council Chairman Stephen G. Sam Moxley said, "I'm not thinking that anybody is doing anything illegal or inappropriate on this. I just wanted to know."

Ruppersberger spokeswoman Elise Armacost said the executive "gives full credit to the council for recognizing that this transaction is good for taxpayers and our county employees."

The state and the county have decided to move about 1,000 employees from the Investment Building in Towson, where several workers say they have suffered debilitating breathing problems they believe is caused by building conditions. The Caldor property, near the city-county line, is slated for $13.9 million in renovations.

County officials said they have dealt primarily with the managing partner in the project, Larry Boltansky. Steven Sibel said yesterday that Boltansky "is a childhood friend of mine."

In other action last night, the council added eight properties to the historical landmarks list. But the council drew the ire of preservationists for leaving three properties off the list: the Anderson and Galloway-Dickey houses in Catonsville and Academy Hall in Essex-Middle River. Those had been recommended for preservation by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, but owners objected.

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