State prosecutor gets Rakes' records

County councilman hands over campaign bank data

September 09, 2005|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

Howard County Councilman David A. Rakes said he has turned over campaign bank records that were requested by the office of Maryland State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh.

"It was a voluntary request," Rakes said just before Tuesday night's County Council meeting in Ellicott City.

He said the request did not explain why the 2004 records were wanted or what Rohrbaugh's office might be seeking, though Rakes, 68, was embroiled in a web of confusion over his campaign finance records and the status of his treasurer this year.

"Somebody complained to them [that] I did something wrong. Somebody's trying to undermine my candidacy," Rakes said. The one-term councilman has said he plans to run for re-election next year.

Asked about the request, Rohrbaugh said, "I do not comment on any matter, neither to confirm or deny." Generally, however, Rohrbaugh said his office often requests records or documents rather than seeking them via subpoena.

Rakes, an east Columbia Democrat, said the prosecutor's request was made shortly after the council's summer recess began July 28, and he is not upset by it. Rakes has been cleared of any wrongdoing by the Howard County Ethics Commission.

"It shouldn't be upsetting unless I've done something wrong. I'm not upset," he said.

He added: "I don't feel one way or the other about it. If they want to look at my records, they can do that."

Rakes current treasurer, Salman Hussain, said last month that Rakes is handling the prosecutor's request himself, though under the law, the treasurer is legally responsible for campaign records.

Hussain said he got a call from the state prosecutor's office, but Rakes turned over the records, not he.

"They got everything from Dave. They [the records] were for the previous year. There has been no fundraising this year at all," he said. "There is nothing, absolutely nothing" wrong for prosecutors to find, he said.

Rakes' troubles began in November, when, as chairman of the county liquor board, he failed to tell other board members that a license applicant for a restaurant in Oakland Mills Village Center, Haluk "Alec" Kantar, had been his campaign treasurer. Howard County council members also serve as liquor board members.

Kantar was denied a license on a 3-1 vote, with Rakes his only supporter, after fellow board member Christopher J. Merdon, an Ellicott City Republican, commented that Kantar had "the worst record I've ever seen," among license applicants. Kantar was later allowed to withdraw his application and sold the lease to new operators who are to open the Fire Rock Grill in the same building this month.

Rakes said later he had replaced Kantar as treasurer months before the liquor board hearing, but he acknowledged an error in judgment for not informing the other board members of his relationship.

But Kantar did not submit his resignation as Rakes' treasurer to the state election board until February 2005.

In addition, Rakes' campaign finance reports revealed a series of errors.

The first report, filed 10 days late, on Jan. 19, failed to list more than $11,000 Rakes raised at an Oct. 20, 2004, fundraiser. It did list, however, charitable donations totaling $3,875, an expenditure normally not allowed by state elections laws.

Rakes explained that the charitable donations were private and were erroneously listed on his campaign report. The missing contributions had been filed in a report submitted mistakenly in November - two months before the deadline. State election officials deleted that report, advising Rakes' treasurer to submit the information at the proper time in January. But when the new report was submitted, the donations were not listed a second time.

Rakes blamed the confusion on Hussain and Christopher Alleva, a friend who had helped prepare his reports. In February, Rakes said he had not reviewed the finance report, though he had signed it.

"I've got somebody working on this who doesn't know what they're doing," Rakes said at the time.

Hussain said he was merely helping Alleva, though Alleva, a friend of Kantar's, was never listed as campaign treasurer.

Alleva, a self-employed real estate entrepreneur, said, "I was actually privy to the records. There's nothing there. The most he could be accused of was sloppy bookkeeping. I don't think that was a crime."

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