- The Washington Times - Friday, March 18, 2005

BALTIMORE — A federal investigation that cast a cloud over the Baltimore City Council has concluded without charges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office announced yesterday.

Documents from all members of the council were subpoenaed during the investigation, which began in 2003 when the all-Democratic council had 19 members and Republican Thomas DiBiagio was the U.S. attorney.

“Our office is charged with considering credible information concerning potential crimes,” acting U.S. Attorney Allen Loucks said. “As a result of such, we have investigated various practices of the Baltimore City Council and concluded that the evidence available to date does not support a successful prosecution.”

Council President Sheila Dixon said she knew from the outset that no one had done anything wrong.

“We don’t know the impetus behind the investigation, nor do we know the full extent of the issues the government investigated,” she said at a City Hall press conference.

Investigators requested five years of records on council members’ finances and their relationships with certain businesses.

They were required to turn over documents detailing gifts, loans and outside income. Investigators also requested information on hiring practices, office budgets, expense accounts and free passes to parking garages.

The investigation included subpoenas to several minority developers for information detailing their dealings with Mrs. Dixon and three former city officials. Mrs. Dixon’s travel records also were subpoenaed.

“Information was sought, information was provided,” said Larry Nathans, an attorney the city hired to represent the council. “It was analyzed, and today we know that the U.S. Attorney’s Office has given a clean bill of health to the Baltimore City Council.”

After the investigation became public in October 2003, the council changed its policies, ending a mostly unregulated expense-account system.

Three council members, including Mrs. Dixon, fired their relatives from their staffs after the city board of ethics issued an opinion that they had violated ethics law in hiring them. All members at the time also surrendered their free parking passes.

The city hired Mr. Nathans and another attorney at up to $375 an hour to assist council members during the probe. It was not clear yesterday how much the city spent.

Mr. DiBiagio, who resigned late last year, made public-corruption cases a priority in his office. The Justice Department reprimanded him in July after the publication of e-mails in which he pressed his staff for three “front-page” corruption indictments before Election Day.

Mr. DiBiagio, who now works for a Washington law firm, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The council was cut in November, from 19 members to 15.

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