Ex-Dixon spokesman receives subpoena

McCarthy to cooperate in probe of mayor

June 21, 2008|By John Fritze and Doug Donovan | John Fritze and Doug Donovan,Sun reporters

Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon's former spokesman, a longtime confidant who helped establish the administration's public message, has been subpoenaed in the state prosecutor's widening probe of City Hall, The Sun learned yesterday.

Anthony W. McCarthy served as a top aide and communications director to Dixon starting in January 2007 and left the office several months later after facing an unrelated investigation, which resulted in no charges being filed.

"We will fully cooperate with whatever it is they want," said McCarthy's lawyer, A. Dwight Pettit. "I have no idea what they want or what they're looking for."

McCarthy's was the latest in a series of new subpoenas served on current and former Dixon employees this week after investigators raided the mayor's home Tuesday - a seven-hour search that refocused public attention on the years-old probe.

That investigation, which began after a series of articles detailed spending irregularities at City Hall, appears to be wide-ranging, including attempts to look into possible gifts to the mayor. State prosecutors have been seeking Dixon's fur coats, for instance.

State prosecutors have declined to comment on the investigation. Sterling Clifford, a spokesman for Dixon, also declined to comment. According to her schedule, Dixon left town yesterday to attend a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Miami.

The Sun reported in 2006 that, as City Council president, Dixon voted on contracts that benefited her sister's employer, Utech. The paper also reported that Dixon's former campaign chairman, Dale G. Clark, was paid $500,000 over five years to perform computer work for the city without a contract. Clark and Utech founder Mildred Boyer have pleaded guilty to tax charges stemming from the inquiry and have agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

At least nine subpoenas were served this week on current and former city employees - many of whom worked with Dixon when she was president of the City Council - and those individuals are expected to testify before a grand jury next week.

McCarthy, who refused to comment, served as Dixon's chief of staff for nine months in 1999 and 2000 when she was president of the council. When Dixon became mayor, McCarthy was brought in to oversee communications and is largely credited with softening her image.

He abruptly left the position in November 2007 after revelations that he was being investigated by Baltimore County police. No charges were filed. McCarthy maintained his innocence, but he did not return to his former position in the mayor's office.

Clifford, who is also the spokesman for the Baltimore Police Department, has been serving as an acting spokesman for the mayor's office since McCarthy left.

Dixon has remained quiet about the investigation since the raid on her home, saying only that she is cooperating with prosecutors and that she is trying to stay focused on moving the city forward.

Gerald C. Ruter, former deputy state prosecutor, said Dixon needs to be careful not to discuss the investigation with the many city employees who are set to testify because that could result in an allegation of obstruction of justice.

Nothing precludes her from discussing issues important to carrying out her job as mayor, he said.

"It's really important for her not to bring up the investigation in any conversation or to allow the conversation to come up," said Ruter, a defense attorney who is not representing anyone involved in the state investigation.

He said that if the state prosecutor is examining gifts to the mayor, he might be seeking to prove that Dixon violated ethics rules by not reporting them on financial disclosure forms, that she violated tax laws by not paying taxes on the gifts or that she committed official misconduct related to accepting a bribe in exchange for favorable treatment.

"Those are all possibilities," Ruter said. "Those would be the three areas of interest if one is looking for a mink" coat.

On the same day that investigators raided Dixon's home, they called the owner of a fur coat company in Timonium to ask whether he was storing Dixon's two fur coats this year, as he had in the past.

Dixon has refused to answer questions about her coats.

Ruter said the search of Dixon's house means nothing more than that a judge determined there was probable cause that evidence of crime might be in the mayor's residence. But, he added, the step is a risky one for prosecutors.

"When one invades the castle of the king," he said, "when you take a shot like that, you ought not to miss."

john.fritze@baltsun.com

doug.donovan@baltsun.com

ONLINE For a timeline about Sheila Dixon, go to baltimoresun.com/dixon

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