Dixon disparages probe, sees effort to discredit her

March 23, 2006|By DOUG DONOVAN | DOUG DONOVAN,SUN REPORTER

Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon broke her silence yesterday over an investigation into her ties to two city contractors by saying the state probe is "trying to destroy my character."

Since state prosecutors began their investigation 10 days ago, Dixon and her staff had said only "no comment" but had pledged to cooperate with Maryland State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh's investigators.

But after the city's Board of Estimates met yesterday, Dixon directly responded to reporters' questions.

"In my heart, I did nothing intentional in any of this," she said. "This has legs on it that's trying to destroy my character. I would never do anything to the citizens of Baltimore, as hard as I work."

A few minutes later, as she walked out of the meeting room in City Hall, she said, "My character is being discredited." Asked whether she thinks there is an organized effort to discredit her character, she said, "Yes, I do."

Dixon declined a request to elaborate on her comments shortly after the meeting.

Bobbie Walton, executive director of Common Cause Maryland, a public interest watchdog group, said she was disappointed with Dixon's comments.

"I wonder who she thinks is out to get her," Walton said. "It's hard to take responsibility for your own behavior sometimes. And it's much easier to think that `they' are out to get you."

It might be difficult for public officials to abide by the rules that govern their positions, Walton said, but "you still have to do it."

City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler has confirmed that prosecutors have issued grand jury subpoenas for documents from six city agencies: the Board of Estimates, the City Council, the Office of Council Services, the Minority and Women's Business Opportunity Office, Mayor Martin O'Malley's Office of Minority Business Development and the mayor's Finance Department.

Officials with at least three companies that have done work for the city or have tried to win government contracts - Comcast, Early Morning Software of Baltimore and Snell Enterprises of Columbia - have confirmed that they have received subpoenas. A fourth company, Sysnet of America in Prince George's County, is scheduled to meet with prosecutors.

The first round of subpoenas, delivered at the start of last week, requested documents related to $600,000 of work awarded over the past six years - most of the time without a contract - to Dixon's former campaign chairman, Dale G. Clark, and his company, Ultimate Network Integration.

A second batch of subpoenas, delivered at the end of last week, requested documents relating to Union Technologies, a company that employs the council president's sister, Janice Dixon, and has received city work from two major government contractors; Comcast, the city's cable television provider; and TeleCommunications Systems Inc., which manages the city's computer network.

A TCS spokesman said the Annapolis company had not received a subpoena. The president of Utech has not returned phone calls. Its registered agent, attorney Claude Edward Hitchcock, has declined to comment.

Clark has said that he has not received a subpoena.

The investigations began after recent articles in The Sun detailed questions about city work awarded to Clark's company and Union Technologies.

Last month, The Sun reported that Dixon might have breached the city's ethics law by not disclosing her sister's employment and by participating in public hearings and votes over the past two years that involved and benefited Utech.

After The Sun's article about Dixon's connections to Utech, the city stripped the company of its official minority certification, which had qualified it to be hired by companies seeking to meet Baltimore's minority subcontracting goals.

Utech lost the certification because the business opportunity office found that its downtown office was nothing more than a telephone and a mailbox. The head of the office said he would review whether Utech performed work under its TCS contract with the city.

The Sun also reported that Clark's company, which has the same address as Union Technologies, signed a contract with Dixon in February 2000 to manage the council's computer system. The Board of Estimates, which Dixon chairs and O'Malley controls, approved the one-year deal a month later.

When the contract expired in March 2001, Clark did not obtain another one for five years while the city continued to make payments to him totaling $500,000. O'Malley's finance officials have not been able to determine why or how Clark was paid without a contract.

City procurement rules require that the Board of Estimates approve all contracts of more than $5,000.

Clark continued to get paid for the work after the city awarded a contract to another company in May 2005. He left the council president's office Feb. 28, just before The Sun published a report detailing the arrangement.

Dixon disciplined two staff members over the Clark matter, and her spokesman called the situation a "major oversight."

"She probably did the right thing to discipline her staff members," Walton said. "But you have to take responsibility for your own behavior too."

doug.donovan@baltsun.com

Sun reporter John Fritze contributed to this article.

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.