Gardina sees politics behind vandalism


He says someone turned on his outdoor water spigot and left it running. Then, he says, someone damaged his roadside mailbox.

Finally, when he found the wires ripped from his satellite dish on Thanksgiving Day, Vincent J. Gardina called police.

"It's not just kids in the neighborhood or chance," the longtime Baltimore County councilman said. "It's somebody trying to harass me."

Gardina, a Democrat who represents the Perry Hall-Towson area, said he doesn't know who is behind the vandalism that has occurred over the past two years, but he suspects it is politically motivated.

He points to the first incident, which happened shortly after he was fired by the administration of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, in late 2003. Gardina took an "O'Malley for Mayor" campaign sign, crossed out "mayor" and wrote in "governor," and placed it in his front yard. Within days, he said, someone stole it.

Baltimore County police say they are investigating the incidents.

"We don't know that whoever did this knew he was a councilman, but we'll see if we can find out," said Bill Toohey, a police spokesman. "While these are certainly intrusions and violations of one's privacy, they're not the crime of the century."

Gardina, 50, a former county police officer and a computer programmer, is accustomed to being in the news. This year he received $100,000 from the Ehrlich administration to settle a wrongful-termination lawsuit. Gardina had claimed he was fired from his job as a project manager at Maryland Environmental Service because he is a Democrat.

More recently, Gardina confronted an uproar among residents in his district who opposed plans to build 56 duplex houses on land owned by the Country Club of Maryland. Gardina was criticized by his colleagues for proposing a building moratorium to delay the project.

Gardina said he suspects political adversaries in the Perry Hall area are behind the vandalism.

"I don't want to say if they're Republicans or Democrats because I don't know, but I believe it's some political connection. There's no other reason," Gardina said. "Some of these people that are constantly trying to work against me are really, really loony. It just leads me to believe that it's somebody with that kind of mentality."

Officials from the Republican Club of Northeast Baltimore County said they are not behind the incidents.

"We have absolutely no connection to any of these events that have occurred," said Michael Pappas, the club's president. "The fact of the matter is, while we are interested in replacing Councilman Gardina with someone from our party, pulling pranks and causing annoyances to Vince Gardina is not how we're going to do that. We're going to beat Vincent Gardina based on his record and lack of service to the Perry Hall area, and even the entire 5th Councilmanic District."

"It really bothers me that somebody would have the gall to come anywhere close to my house and try to harass me in that way," Gardina said.

An opponent accused Gardina of stealing signs during the council campaign in 1994, which Gardina denies.

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