Baltimore County Digest

Baltimore County Digest

April 12, 2006

Campaign sign limits debated at session

A Baltimore County councilman urged his colleagues yesterday to support his proposed limits on the posting of campaign signs on private property, but three residents voiced their opposition to the proposal, pointing to First Amendment concerns.

County Councilman Kevin Kamenetz's bill would prohibit the posting of campaign signs on private property until 45 days before an election. The measure would also set limits on the size of the signs and require that they be removed within seven days after the election.

Kamenetz, a Pikesville-Ruxton Democrat, said at a council work session that the law mostly duplicates a state law on campaign signs.

But Noel Levy, who is running for the House of Delegates in Baltimore County, said the proposed limits would be "clearly unconstitutional" and benefit incumbent politicians. "If challenged in court, it will fail," Levy said.

County Attorney John E. Beverungen testified that he has no concerns with the proposal and that state limits on the posting of campaign signs have not been challenged in court.

Kamenetz said his proposal avoids First Amendment questions because, unlike the old law, it would apply only to official campaign signs and because candidates agree to certain restrictions when they run for office.

Josh Mitchell

UMBC

Contractor pleads guilty to theft

A 49-year-old concrete contractor pleaded guilty yesterday to theft and bribery charges in connection with a kickback scheme involving University of Maryland, Baltimore County construction projects, according to the Maryland attorney general's office.

Patrick R. Sisk, who lives in Cockeysville and owns Sisk Contracting, pleaded guilty in Baltimore County Circuit Court to theft, conspiracy to commit theft and bribery, the attorney general's office said. He is scheduled to be sentenced in September.

Sisk admitted that between 1999 and 2003, he participated in a scheme with a UMBC construction manager to create a "slush fund" -- a steady stream of illegal cash generated by submitting false and inflated invoices to the university, according to a statement of facts read in court by prosecutors during the plea hearing.

Sisk allowed the construction manager to submit invoices on behalf of his concrete company to the general contractor and then kicked back the illegal cash to the construction manager and others, prosecutors said.

The kickbacks included between $35,000 and $50,000 in cash as well as $40,000 worth of purchases that Sisk made for the construction manager and his friends, according to the statement of facts.

Purchases included a pellet stove, home renovation materials, a computer, a lawn mower, digital cameras, appliances for a beach house, fencing materials and a $10,000 boat, according to the statement of facts. The total amount stolen from the university through the construction scheme was more than $137,000.

As part of his plea deal, Sisk agreed to cooperate with the state attorney general's investigation into corruption in the procurement process at UMBC.

Sisk is the second man to plead guilty in the UMBC corruption investigation. Joseph A. Shryock, 47, a former UMBC construction project manager who lives in Catonsville, pleaded guilty last month to ordering bathroom fixtures for his house and passing the expense on to the university.

Jennifer McMenamin

Middle River

Ex-resident sentenced for sex abuse

A man who served time in jail and on probation in Maryland for molesting two girls has been sentenced to two consecutive life prison terms in Florida for abuse that occurred there but was uncovered during the Baltimore County investigations.

Randolph Wightman, 46, a construction worker who lived in Middle River until his arrest last year on the Florida charges, was convicted last week of capital sexual battery for abusing a young girl for three years in the 1980s in Hillsborough County, Fla., said Kimberly Hindman, an assistant state attorney in Tampa.

The case was brought to the attention of Florida prosecutors by Stephen Roscher, an assistant state's attorney in Baltimore County, who prosecuted Wightman for groping a teenage girl in White Marsh in 2003.

"He served the case up to us," Hindman, the Florida prosecutor, said. "Somebody like Mr. Wightman, he's a predator. He needed to be stopped."

Jennifer McMenamin

Dundalk

Boy's death is ruled a drowning

The state medical examiner's office ruled that a 7-year-old boy found by county police divers had drowned, police officials said yesterday.

The body of Edward Deshawn Blue was found about 7:30 a.m. by county police divers, authorities said.

Blue had been reported missing about 9:20 p.m. Sunday. He was last seen riding a silver scooter on Paulette Road in Dundalk, police said. A scooter was found on the pier off Paulette Road that night.

Nick Shields

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