Theft laid to son of official

Funds were stolen from campaign of delegate, state says

June 09, 2007|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,Sun reporter

An Anne Arundel County grand jury has indicted the son of an East Baltimore state delegate on charges that he stole from his mother's campaign finance account and violated election laws by managing her money without authorization.

Robert "Skip" Harrison Jr. of the 1600 block of Northwick Road in Baltimore was also indicted on a charge of failing to file state income tax returns for three years, said the Office of the State Prosecutor.

The state prosecutor began investigating Harrison, the son of Del. Hattie N. Harrison, after the State Board of Elections reported about a year ago that the delegate had not filed campaign finance reports.

"This indictment demonstrates our continued commitment to enforcing the election laws of Maryland," State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh said in a statement.

The indictment identifies Harrison's son as William, but an official with the state prosecutor's office said that was a mistake, and that prosecutors will seek to amend the name in the indictment to Robert Harrison Jr.

But Hattie Harrison, 79, said yesterday that her son never stole from her. She said she had spoken to prosecutors about a year ago. "It is a surprise," she said. "He didn't take any money from me."

Robert Harrison Jr., 60, was not available for comment yesterday. His lawyer, Timothy F. Maloney of Prince George's County, said: "Mr. Harrison vigorously denies any wrongdoing and looks forward to his day in court."

Rohrbaugh would not say how much money the son is accused of stealing from his mother's campaign account.

The indictment says that on Feb. 26, 2005, he "did commit theft from the Hattie Harrison for Delegate campaign finance committee by taking and keeping campaign funds in excess of $500." That charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in jail and/or a $25,000 fine.

The delegate said she turned over all of her financial records to prosecutors, but she believes they do not indicate theft. "I kept tabs on the funds," she said. "I always kept the bankbook here."

Her son also is charged with conspiracy to violate election laws for controlling "finances and the financial books" for the committee "without being the duly authorized treasurer" between June 12, 1998, and June 12, 2006.

The treasurer from Sept. 20, 2004, to July 3, 2006, was Shanae Latasha Williams. Doris O. Allen was treasurer from Aug. 5, 2002, to Oct. 10, 2003.

Harrison said her committee treasurer and her son had an agreement for preparing her reports. "It was a thing they had agreed upon - he would do the reports for her, but she would sign them," she said.

She would not say which treasurer had such an agreement but that it was not Williams.

The conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or a $25,000 fine. The charges that the delegate's son failed to file state income taxes for 2004, 2005 and 2006 carry a maximum five-year penalty and/or a $10,000 fine.

Hattie Harrison, a House of Delegates member since 1973, has been chairwoman of the rules and executive nominations committee since 1979. She said her son works in Washington, but that she did not know what he does.

He had been executive director of the nonprofit Oliver Community Association for two years starting in November 2000, a tenure marked with financial troubles - including the group's unpaid or late federal and state taxes, according to city documents obtained by The Sun.

Harrison said she and her relatives helped her son "pay back" the association all the money he owed it. But she did not offer specifics.

"We stepped in to help him," she said. "He paid all of it back" to the association.

doug.donovan@baltsun.com

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