DiBiagio issues new subpoenas to council

At least 15 have received requests for information from U.S. attorney's office

November 04, 2003|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

Federal prosecutors have expanded their wide-ranging investigation into the Baltimore City Council by subpoenaing the records of at least eight more members.

With the latest round of subpoenas, 15 of the council's 19 members acknowledge that they have received requests for financial and other information from U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio's office. Prosecutors had issued subpoenas to seven members two months ago.

"I have no idea what they want," said Council President Sheila Dixon, who received her subpoena Friday. "I'm going to provide them with all the information they asked for."

Both rounds of grand jury subpoenas asked for information dating back five years that details council members' acceptance of gifts and loans, hiring practices and relationships with two local businessmen. The latest batch of subpoenas - which some members said they did not receive until yesterday - differs slightly by also asking for records of all office expenditures during the same period. Council members have until Nov. 21 to turn over the documents.

Council members, who receive a salary of $48,000 a year, control their own office budgets of $130,000 to $160,000. The money is used for assistants' salaries, office supplies and constituent service.

Several legal experts have said the subpoenas indicate that a grand jury investigation is in an early stage.

Dixon said she believed the subpoenas were fueled by articles in The Sun reporting that 10 council members have hired relatives and that all have accepted free passes to Arrow Parking garages. Nearly all said they also received passes to events at the Baltimore Zoo, 1st Mariner Arena and the Senator Theatre.

The city's Board of Ethics ruled last month that council members erred in accepting the free parking passes from a company with business before the council.

In addition, the panel said three council members who hired siblings as assistants - Dixon, Pamela V. Carter and John L. Cain - breached ethics rules against such hires.

Carter and Dixon both said they would fire their siblings. Dixon said last month that her sister, Janice, would be dismissed by Nov. 21.

Cain refused to answer questions yesterday about whether he would fire his sister or if he received a subpoena.

The council members who received the first subpoenas include: Carter, Kwame Osayaba Abayomi, Robert W. Curran, Kenneth N. Harris Sr., Melvin L. Stukes, Bernard C. "Jack" Young and Agnes Welch. Although The Sun had obtained a copy of a subpoena with Lois A. Garey's name on it, she said she had not received one. She said yesterday that she had still not received a subpoena but that she had spoken with DiBiagio's office and one would soon arrive.

"I have never done anything crooked," said Garey, who will leave office in December 2004. "I came in with a good name, and I would like to leave with a good name."

The council members who received the second batch of subpoenas include: Dixon, Nicholas C. D'Adamo Jr., Helen L. Holton, Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr., Catherine E. Pugh, Rochelle "Rikki" Spector and Lisa Joi Stancil.

`We all got them'

Many council members said they believed that the entire council received subpoenas.

"We all got them," Pugh said.

Caprece Jackson-Garrett, Dixon's spokeswoman, said the full council had been served as of Friday.

When asked at the council's meeting last night whether she had received one, Paula Johnson Branch said, "I'm not discussing that issue."

Stephanie C. Rawlings Blake, the council's vice president, could not be reached for comment last night, and Edward L. Reisinger said he had not received a subpoena.

Several council members were upset that the subpoenas were not personally delivered. Instead, according to several members, they were dropped off at council offices on Friday.

"They should not have been placed in mailboxes," Garey said. "A subpoena should be signed for."

Members were also upset with what they characterized as the sloppiness of the subpoenas. Many said their subpoenas included pages that they contend were meant for their colleagues.

The subpoenas ask council members for "all documents" concerning financial, political and professional dealings dating back five years.

These include:

Gifts worth more than $100 from anyone other than immediate family;

Loans from individuals or financial institutions;

Income or consulting fees beyond their council salaries and all disclosure reports;

All resumes or job applications for current and past employees;

Any official actions taken related to two businessmen and their primary interests - Ben Greenwald, vice president of Arrow Parking; and Edwin F. Hale Sr., chairman of 1st Mariner Bank and owner of the Baltimore Blast soccer team.

`May be overly broad'

"I think the subpoenas may be overly broad," said Stancil, who is a lawyer.

Hale has said that his bank had provided no loans to any council members. His projects often garner broad support from council members, most of whom receive campaign contributions from Hale.

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