With the dismissal of some charges in the City Hall corruption cases this week, the person left taking the biggest hit is someone who never has sought or held political office: Ronald H. Lipscomb.
The state prosecutor's bribery case against the developer is the only one that remains fully intact after a judge on Thursday tossed out all charges against Helen L. Holton, the city councilwoman accused of accepting a bribe from Lipscomb. Also dismissed were five charges brought against Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon after a three-year investigation into City Hall spending practices, but seven others were allowed to stand.
"The only guy who seems completely on the spot is Lipscomb," said Matthew A. Crenson, professor emeritus of political science at the Johns Hopkins University. "They were not really going after him; they picked him up along the way."
And Lipscomb's troubles go beyond the state prosecutor's case.
The state has placed an $87,913 lien on his Prince George's County house, saying he failed to pay withholding taxes for employees at his development company, Doracon. The company's East Baltimore headquarters building was initially included in the city tax lien sale list for nonpayment of property taxes. He was sued last year by a contractor for $223,560.
The bribery charges have put his client "in the poorhouse" and caused potential business partners to flee, said Lipscomb's attorney, Gerard P. Martin. "His business suffers because of the case, and his personal fortune suffers because he has to pay me," Martin said.
Lipscomb did not reply to an e-mail and a phone call asking for comment.
It was not long ago that Lipscomb's career was soaring. He was on teams to build projects including the Four Seasons Hotel in Harbor East and the huge biotechnology park in East Baltimore. At one point, he bragged in a e-mail of his "drag," or influence, at City Hall, according to state prosecutors.
Lipscomb is accused of bribing Holton by paying her $12,500 bill for a political poll. In exchange, prosecutors say, the councilwoman steered millions of dollars of tax credits to two of his Harbor East projects.
The case against Holton was dropped Thursday by retired Howard County Circuit Judge Dennis M. Sweeney, who ruled that the councilwoman's votes are protected by legislative immunity and cannot be used against her as evidence in a criminal proceeding.
But those votes can be used against Lipscomb. To make matters worse, Holton likely will not testify on his behalf at the developer's trial because she could lose her immunity if she discusses her votes.
Lipscomb's debts are coming due. "As he is the corporate officer, we use every tool at our disposal to bring in the money," said Christine Feldmann, a spokeswoman for the state comptroller, which put a lien on his house in April for nonpayment of employee taxes.
Lipscomb narrowly avoided having the right to collect taxes on his company's headquarters sold at auction by the city. He paid $27,120 in back taxes at the end of April, getting the East Biddle Street offices removed from the annual lien sale.
There may be a silver lining to his troubles. He was sued for not paying Union Technologies, a subcontractor, for work the company said it did on Frankford Estates, a mixed-income housing development, and Silo Point, an upscale condo complex.
But the $223,560 lawsuit filed against him was dropped because UTech's president, Mildred E. Boyer, concluded it would be too difficult to pursue while he was under indictment and she might not collect any money from him anyway, said Boyer's lawyer, Neal M. Janey Sr.
Boyer is tied to the same corruption scandal that has ensnared Lipscomb. UTech had employed the sister of Dixon, who then helped channel work to UTech.
Shortly after the incident was reported in The Baltimore Sun, the state prosecutor's office launched its investigation of Dixon.
Name: Ronald H. Lipscomb
Home: Mitchellville, Prince George's County
Family: wife Zaiafanice; daughter Stephanie; son Ronald K.
Businesses: Doracon Contracting, a minority-owned construction, demolition and excavation company
Accused: One count bribery