Mitchell acknowledges debt in District Court

City lawmaker accepts $21,250 judgment for '97 loan he has not repaid

April 17, 2002|By Ivan Penn | Ivan Penn,SUN STAFF

State Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV agreed yesterday to accept a $21,250 court judgment against him, acknowledging in writing that he has not repaid a loan from a 1997 deal that has been the subject of ethics probes.

Although he admitted the debt in District Court, Mitchell, who did not appear in person, might have difficulty repaying the money because he owes tens of thousands of dollars in other bills, records show.

That could leave the burden on the co-signer of the loan, Robert M. Campbell, a Baltimore bail bondsman who says he fears the senator will not repay any of the money because Mitchell won't return his phone calls.

"I tried to reach the senator," Campbell said after yesterday's hearing before District Judge Catherine Curran O'Malley. "The senator wouldn't talk to me. Why would he, when he walks away free of the debt?"

Arthur M. Frank, Mitchell's lawyer, who also did not attend the court hearing, said yesterday that the senator intends to repay the money. Frank said that with the General Assembly having concluded its 90-day session April 8, Mitchell plans to seek work to supplement his senatorial salary of $31,509.

"Senator Mitchell is going to make every reasonable attempt to repay the debt," Frank said. "He's hoping to find employment and pay all of his debts."

Since November 1997, when Mitchell closed his family's bail-bond business, the only job he has held is as a state legislator.

Frank said he and Mitchell did not go to court yesterday because they consented to a judgment being filed against the senator for the money he owes.

Mitchell, who never disputed the debt, received in February a harsh public reprimand from his peers in the General Assembly for failing to disclose the loan agreement he had with three Baltimore businessmen with issues before the legislature -- a violation of state ethics law.

The Maryland Ethics Commission, which has the authority to issue fines for ethics violations, is reviewing the loan agreement. A staff member of the commission attended yesterday's court hearing.

Suzanne S. Fox, executive director of the commission, declined to comment about her staff attending the hearing. The commission is scheduled to meet again April 25.

Investigators from the state prosecutor's office also have conducted inquiries into the loan agreement since the legislature issued its reprimand.

Mitchell requested a $10,000 loan from city bail bondsman John Griffin during the 1997 Assembly session. Mitchell then worked out a deal during a meeting at a Baltimore corned beef restaurant with Griffin, Campbell and Baltimore bus company owner Joe Louis Gladney Sr., in which Gladney agreed to provide the money while Campbell co-signed the loan.

The senator never repaid the loan, which with interest and attorneys' fees stands at $21,250.

Mitchell did not disclose the loan deal until after he was prodded to do so by the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics and on the eve of a Sun article detailing the loan agreement.

The senator's consent yesterday to a judgment against him clears the way for Gladney to use such legal means as wage garnishments to collect.

But even with the court's backing, Gladney is not likely to see any money from Mitchell soon because a string of other creditors are waiting to get paid. Moreover, part of Mitchell's income is being garnisheed to help repay more than $400,000 he and family members owe from a failed business loan.

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