Ethics panel eyes loan

Mitchell appears voluntarily before joint committee

Session is confidential

Inquiry to continue on $10,000 borrowed by lawmaker in 1997

February 20, 2002|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

State Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV appeared before the General Assembly's ethics committee for almost two hours yesterday as the panel continued its inquiry into a $10,000 loan the lawmaker received through businessmen with issues before the legislature.

Arthur M. Frank, Mitchell's lawyer, said the closed-door meeting went well, but he did not give specifics about the senator's testimony.

"He went voluntarily," Frank said. "It wasn't a subpoena. Senator Mitchell went in to give them all the information he had on these issues."

Sen. Michael J. Collins, co-chairman of the committee, would not comment about Mitchell's appearance, pointing to confidentiality laws. Neither would he say whether any other witnesses are scheduled to testify.

He said the committee is scheduled to meet again tomorrow. That would mark at least the fifth time the panel has met to discuss Mitchell's loan.

Yesterday's closed meeting, which state law allows for advisory opinions to legislators and for discipline cases, was guarded by two armed state troopers - a step that had not been taken for earlier sessions.

The ethics committee is conducting an inquiry into a $10,000 loan Mitchell received in 1997 while he was a state delegate.

Joe Louis Gladney Sr., a Baltimore bus service owner, provided the money for the loan, and Robert M. Campbell, a city bail bond company owner, co-signed the note, according to Gladney, Campbell and bail bondsman John Griffin. The loan was arranged at a meeting in an East Baltimore corned beef restaurant during the 1997 General Assembly session, the men have said.

Mitchell received the loan at a time of mounting personal debt that included tens of thousands of dollars in bills. He never disclosed the loan but continued to sponsor and vote on bail-related legislation - an apparent violation of state ethics law.

In addition, the legislature regularly considers transportation safety bills that would affect Gladney's bus company.

Maryland law prohibits legislators from "soliciting, accepting, or agreeing to accept a loan ... from a person who would be affected by or has an interest in an enterprise which would be affected by the legislator's participation in legislative action."

Mitchell has made no payments on the loan, and he and Campbell were sued in July to collect. With interest, the debt totals $18,610.

If the 12-member ethics committee, a joint panel of House and Senate members, were to find Mitchell in violation of state ethics law, sanctions could include an oral or written reprimand, a referral to law enforcement agencies for further investigation or a recommendation of expulsion from the Assembly - an action rarely taken.

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