- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 26, 2006

A bill dealing with appointments by the governor has touched off a partisan fight in the Maryland Senate.

Republican Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus, Eastern Shore Republican, calls the legislation a mean-spirited attack on Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan.

The bill would require a governor who is elected to a second term to reappoint all of his Cabinet secretaries. That would give the Senate a chance to veto their appointments by refusing to confirm the nominations.

Mr. Stoltzfus calls the bill “ugly partisanship.”

But its sponsor, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s County Democrat, denies any partisan intent.

He says the bill is not aimed at Mr. Flanagan, although he says he would vote against him if Mr. Flanagan came up a second time for confirmation as transportation secretary.

Probed

Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon says a state investigation into her involvement with city money that went to companies employing her sister and her former campaign chairman stems from an attempt to discredit her politically.

“In my heart, I did nothing intentional in any of this,” Mrs. Dixon said last week. “This has legs on it that’s trying to destroy my character. I would never do anything to the citizens of Baltimore, as hard as I work.”

Mrs. Dixon declined a request to elaborate on her comments a short time after she made them.

City Solicitor Ralph Tyler confirmed that the city has received six subpoenas from the office of the state prosecutor.

Three of them were received March 16, seeking documents involving Union Technologies, which employs Mrs. Dixon’s sister Janice.

Mr. Tyler also said three other subpoenas relate to contracts with Dale Clark, Mrs. Dixon’s former campaign chairman, who owns Ultimate Network Integration.

The probe by the state prosecutor’s office has extra significance during a political year in which Mayor Martin O’Malley is running for governor. If Mr. O’Malley were to win the election in November, the City Council president would complete his term as mayor.

The Baltimore Sun first reported last month that Mrs. Dixon might have breached city ethics law by not disclosing her sister’s employment with Union Technologies, also known as Utech.

The company was once a minority subcontractor for Comcast cable television under its city cable franchise. Mrs. Dixon has participated in hearings and votes involving Utech.

The newspaper also has reported that Mr. Clark’s company was paid about $600,000 over six years to manage the City Council’s computer network, after Mrs. Dixon became City Council president in 1999.

Utech President Mildred Boyer says her company has been wrongly accused.

Endorsed

Allan Lichtman’s campaign says his bid for Maryland’s U.S. Senate seat has been endorsed by some of the leading lights of progressive politics.

Mr. Lichtman, an American University professor, received endorsements from former presidential candidates George McGovern, the South Dakota Democrat who ran in 1972, and John Anderson, the former Republican from Illinois who ran as an independent in 1980.

Mr. Lichtman also was endorsed by the American Women Presidents, a group dedicated to electing women to the presidency, and the Calvert County Progressive Democrats.

Mr. Lichtman says support from such national progressive leaders as Mr. McGovern and Mr. Anderson underscores his commitment to bringing change to Washington.

He is one of several candidates running for the seat of Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes, the Maryland Democrat who will retire after five terms in office.

Circle of money

A review of Maryland campaign-finance records shows that board members of nonprofit groups that the lieutenant governor’s office picked to receive unrestricted state grants gave thousands of dollars to Michael S. Steele’s campaign.

In 2004, four black groups accepted $250,000 from an insurance settlement received by the state.

The Baltimore Sun reported that officials with three of the groups gave more than $13,000 to Mr. Steele, a Republican, around the same time or in following months.

The donations to Mr. Steele’s state campaign account were made before Mr. Steele became a candidate for U.S. Senate. But he openly talked at the time about running for governor in 2010.

A Steele Senate campaign spokeswoman says there is no connection between the settlement money and the campaign donations.

Political ethics

The Hagerstown, Md., City Council chose not to take any action against one of its members after an ethics commission ruled she had violated the town’s ethics code by accepting a ride from a city police officer after a traffic stop.

The council last week voted 3-2 not to punish council member Alesia Parson-McBean, with the majority saying she had been punished enough. Mrs. Parson-McBean abstained.

In an opinion made public last week, the Washington County Ethics Commission ruled Mrs. Parson-McBean violated the city’s ethics code by using the prestige of her office to gain a benefit that would not have been available to a member of the public.

Mrs. Parson-McBean was stopped Jan. 20 for driving a vehicle with expired registration, police said.

She asked the officer who stopped her, “Do you know who I am?” She also asked the officer how she could get to the Motor Vehicle Administration to renew her registration.

The opinion concluded that Mrs. Parson-McBean’s words and actions prompted the officer to consult with Capt. Charles Summers, who then directed Lt. William C. Wright to drive Mrs. Parson-McBean to the MVA, wait for her to renew her registration and drive her back to her vehicle at the police department.

Drive-by politics

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine chose Southwest Virginia as the starting point for his latest series of town hall meetings on transportation, driving home the message that every area of the state needs highway and transit improvements.

The first meeting was last Monday in Bristol, with an encore the next day in Hillsville — localities hundreds of miles from Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads, the gridlocked regions receiving most of the attention in the transportation debate.

The Democratic governor and the Republican-controlled Senate are pushing similar plans to generate at least $1 billion a year in additional revenue for transportation. Both would raise taxes.

Republican conservatives who lead the House of Delegates oppose a tax increase.

More ethics

A Frederick, Md., woman is accusing Mayor Jeff Holtzinger of violating the city’s ethics code by hiring his sister-in-law.

Trish Cunningham was a candidate for alderwoman in last fall’s Democratic primary and is a Neighborhood Advisory Council member who frequently attends city meetings. She e-mailed the complaint to the state Attorney General’s Office.

Earlier this month, Mr. Holtzinger hired Donna Folden, his sister-in-law, as a project manager to coordinate the mayor’s office with other departments.

The city’s ethics law states that city officials such as the mayor can’t hire family members to regular paid employment by the city.

Mr. Holtzinger says he went through a standard hiring process and checked with the city’s Human Resources Department about his relation to Mrs. Folden.

Meet the new boss

Amy Reger is the new executive director of the Virginia Democratic Party.

She succeeds Lindsey Reynolds, who is moving on after three years. Miss Reynolds will continue to serve as a consultant to the party.

Miss Reger was the regional field director for the party’s statewide ticket in Prince William and Loudoun counties last year. Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, carried those counties, which were thought to be Republican strongholds.

Miss Reger also worked for Wesley Clark’s presidential campaign in Virginia in 2004 and served as the young-voter project director in Nevada. She is a former reporter for the Loudoun Times-Mirror.

Jon Ward contributed to this column, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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