Laura Vozzella: Sheila Dixon is still ready for her close-up

Ex-mayor refusing to return video surveillance equipment to the city

September 01, 2010

Sheila Dixon has something that doesn't belong to her, but she's trying to keep it anyway. Seems like old times.

Nearly seven months after ill-gotten gift cards, furs and cold, hard cash cost the mayor her job, Dixon still has a bunch of city-owned video surveillance equipment at her Hunting Ridge house.

The Police Department had the stuff installed as a security measure when she became mayor. After she became Citizen Dixon in February as part of a plea deal, police asked for it back.

But Dixon has refused "repeated requests by phone and letter" to return it, WBAL-TV's Jayne Miller reported this week.

City Solicitor George Nilson confirmed the gist of Miller's report.

"As of now, they haven't produced or returned the equipment under discussion," he said. "My understanding is, the inspector general has been asked to follow up with it."

Nilson, who oversees the IG administratively but said he did not know details of the case, said it was possible that police had only made one request for the equipment before turning the matter over to the inspector general.

"It could be as simple as the Police Department felt awkward making a second request," Nilson said.

Say what you will about Baltimore police, I don't think anyone has ever accused them of being shy.

And Dixon, who did not return my call seeking comment, didn't sound like someone who needed just one more nudge before doing the right thing. Miller reported that Dixon told her — off camera — that Martin O'Malley had been allowed to keep his security equipment when he went off to Annapolis. (Miller said that wasn't true, by the way.)

City Inspector General David McClintock declined to say just how much back-and-forth there was between police and Dixon before the surveillance system reclamation effort came his way. He told me he was "looking into the matter," but that's all he'd say since it's a continuing investigation.

Baltimore police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi also declined to go into detail on the repo attempts. Nor would he say just what sort of equipment is at Dixon's house, except that it's what the city typically affords senior elected officials. Miller reported there were at least five cameras, plus an internal monitoring system.

I think the real outrage is not that even after her conviction, Dixon has the chutzpah to cling to the perks of office.

It's that all that time Dixon was mayor, the cops had the surveillance cameras pointed in the wrong direction — outside the house. Evidence of all the real law-breaking was inside, hanging in Dixon's closet.

If Dixon would just train the cameras on herself — and seriously, when wasn't that gal ready for her close-up? — I say let her hang onto them so the cops can keep an eye on her.

Fighting crime

Gregg Bernstein, who's running for Baltimore state's attorney, is pretty busy these days, what with the Democratic primary fast approaching.

The last thing he needs is for one of his clients to go and get himself indicted by a grand jury, as state Sen. Ulysses Currie did Wednesday.

How can someone "Fight Crime First" while helping a powerful state pol fight off the feds? I mean, there are only so many hours in a day.

But it looks like Currie's woes won't affect Bernstein.

Attorney Dale Kelberman represents Currie in the federal case, which charges him with bribery, extortion and other criminal offenses related to helping Shoppers Food Warehouse expand in Maryland.

Bernstein represents Currie in a related state case. The state prosecutor has been looking into whether Currie used campaign funds to pay Kelberman's firm for legal representation in the federal case. But there are still no charges in the state matter.

So when I called Bernstein's campaign, asking how the indictment was affecting the busy candidate, Bernstein's wife, Sheryl Goldstein, said no sweat.

"Different lawyer, different firm."

Connect the dots …

Wow: $725,000 in 18 days! How is Bob Ehrlich going to keep that torrid fundraising pace up? This should help: Kendel Ehrlich Fashion Show, $125 per person, Oct. 19, 6:30 p.m., Martin's West. … On "The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson" the other night: Baltimore mystery novelist (and former Baltimore Sun reporter) Laura Lippman.

laura.vozzella@baltsun.com

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