"I just thought a fur coat with an evidence tag on it would… (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore…)
The Persian lamb coat that helped bring Sheila Dixon to political slaughter could keep other public servants from going astray.
A University of Maryland lawyer bought the former mayor's fur on eBay this week and plans to use it to teach ethical do's and don'ts.
"I just thought a fur coat with an evidence tag on it would be a lovely prop," said Susan Gillette, senior university counsel at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
Gillette had the winning $1,700 bid for Dixon's Persian lamb jacket, which prosecutors auctioned this week along with a mink and other evidence seized in criminal cases that led to Dixon's resignation.
Gillette plans to put the fur on display during ethics-training sessions she'll run for university staff this spring. A fur coat that helped bring down a mayor seems like just the thing to make ethics rules - don't take gifts from vendors, for instance - come alive, she said.
"It's a good topic but it's a sleeper subject in a classroom," Gillette said. "We've been trying to think of things to do to make it more eye-catching."
Gillette was drawn to the sporty, sand-colored lamb jacket over the mink that the state prosecutor's office also auctioned.
"I thought it was a prettier coat," Gillette said. "The mink was just another mink."
Dixon bought both coats with a gift certificate from developer Ronald Lipscomb at a time when she was City Council president and Lipscomb was receiving millions in tax breaks from the city board she chaired. She did not disclose the coats on ethics forms signed under oath, which led to perjury charges and a plea deal.
The mink went for $2,426 in the auction. Dixon's camcorder sold for $510. Her Xbox game system surprised everyone by commanding top dollar: $3,050.
Buyers of those items have not been identified yet. When they claim the items from the state prosecutor's office, they will be asked whether they want their names made public, said investigator James Cabezas.
Asked for his thoughts on how Gillette planned to use the coat, Cabezas said, "I found it interesting."
Gillette bought the coat with her own money and said jokingly that she might rent it out to help defray the cost. Describing herself as "a bit of an animal lover," Gillette said she isn't normally in the market for fur.
"My children are giving me heck for buying it," she said.
Once Gillette is done using the fur for ethics training, she hopes to donate it to a museum. She thinks it would be perfect for an exhibit on women in politics.
"History is not just the positive," she said. "There are positives and negatives about Sheila Dixon's administration, and she will be remembered in all kinds of ways."