Dixon calls budget draft a 'scare tactic'

Former mayor also reaffirms that she's planning a book

March 28, 2010|By Baltimore Sun staff

Former Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon criticized her successor's draft budget as a "scare tactic" for raising the prospect of deep public safety cuts, and declined again to apologize for the theft and fraud case that resulted in her criminal conviction and ouster from office during a televised interview to air today.

In the interview, taped Friday for the "Square Off" program hosted by longtime television personality Richard Sher, Dixon reaffirmed that she is writing a book about her career and recent travails. She denied that the theft of gift cards intended for needy families was a central part of the case prosecutors brought against her, and blamed her troubles on a failed relationship with a developer whose name she said she could not bear to utter.

A jury found Dixon guilty of theft of gift cards intended for needy families in December 2009, and she announced her resignation in January 2010 as part of a plea agreement that allowed her to keep a $83,000-a-year public pension.

Dixon was part of a panel discussion on the public affairs show, and later participated in a 10-minute interview. Baltimore's budget problems were a main topic. Last week, Mayor Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake released a $2.2 billion annual spending proposal that filled a $121 million shortfall in part by laying off 600 city employees, many of them from the police and fire departments. Rawlings-Blake said she would soon introduce a package of fees and taxes which could reduce the cuts by $50 million.

Dixon said she did not like the timing of the draft budget. The plan "should have been presented with alternatives and ways to address the issue, not just give people a scare tactic," Dixon said.

Dixon said that city agencies may not have had enough of a say. "You can't have [the] finance [department] dictate," she said. "Part of this proposal, this is finance saying, this is what will happen."

Rawlings-Blake spokesman Ryan C. O'Doherty declined to respond to Dixon directly, but said the mayor is "working hard with the City Council on a comprehensive plan that will fix the devastating $121 million deficit that she inherited." Dixon became the biggest target in a years-long City Hall corruption inquiry, and prosecutors charged her with failing to disclose gifts she received from a developer boyfriend, Ronald H. Lipscomb, who benefited from city tax breaks. Dixon said the crux of the case "was about a relationship that I made a bad choice in. ... That's all I'm saying."

Dixon said she was "not even parting my lips" to mention Lipscomb's name.

The Dixon interview can be seen on "Square Off" at 6:30 p.m. today on WMAR-TV Channel 2.

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