Jessamy's newsletter attack `silly,' O'Malley says

November 08, 2001|By Sarah Koenig and Gady Epstein | Sarah Koenig and Gady Epstein,SUN STAFF

Calling the city state's attorney's attack on him "silly" and her understanding of her own budget "incomplete," Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley said yesterday that he would rather Patricia C. Jessamy concentrate on fighting crime.

O'Malley was responding to reporters' questions about a recent "community newsletter" Jessamy's office produced that included a long, critical commentary of the mayor signed by her.

About 28,000 copies of the newsletter were distributed as an insert in the Baltimore Afro-American newspaper, and mailed to groups, churches, hospitals and elsewhere.

In her commentary, Jessamy accused O'Malley of forcing "failed" reforms on the criminal justice system and refusing to adequately fund her office. "Perhaps mayors do not want to give money to an agency it cannot control," she wrote.

Speaking in Washington, D.C., where he and other mayors met with Senate Democrats yesterday, O'Malley said he was "distressed by what an incomplete understanding of her own budget was demonstrated in that letter."

The mayor said Jessamy's office had received the largest percentage increase of any city agency since he took office.

The city budget shows that Jessamy's office got an increase of $4.3 million between 1999 and this year.

O'Malley said he was not bothered that Jessamy had used office funds to pay for what some consider a political attack. Jessamy, who is running for re-election next year, has said she used "forfeiture funds," assets seized from criminals, not tax money.

"I'm far more concerned about the lack of justice and prosecutions than I am with the silly mailings or those sorts of things," he said. In particular, he noted her failure to prosecute police officer Brian L. Sewell, accused of planting drugs on an innocent man.

In her newsletter, Jessamy characterized the police "sting" operation in the Sewell case as a "botched, Keystone cop affair."

O'Malley portrayed Jessamy's newsletter as petty compared to the murder wave that has swept the city in the past month. "I tell you, it's almost kind of jarring, to come off the carnage of the last 40 days, and then see something as silly as that coming out of your prosecutor's office," he said.

Jessamy declined to respond to the mayor's comments.

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