- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 7, 2010

BALTIMORE | Mayor Sheila Dixon resigned Wednesday as part of a deal with prosecutors, ending a three-year tenure that began with promise but unraveled amid embarrassing allegations that she stole from the poor.

Dixon, 56, was convicted last month of misappropriating about $500 in gift cards donated to the city for distribution to needy families during her time as City Council president. Had she not agreed to step down, she could have been thrown out of office.

On Wednesday, she entered an Alford plea to a charge of perjury, meaning she admits there is enough evidence to convict her on that charge but does not acknowledge guilt. Her resignation will take effect Feb. 4, her sentencing date.

Dixon’s voice wavered as she announced that she would step down and thanked her staff for their support, but she did not apologize for the actions that led to her conviction.

“I take responsibility for some of the choices that I made,” Dixon said. “I think I’ve disappointed myself to some degree, and I think I’ve disappointed citizens.”

In exchange, prosecutors and Judge Dennis M. Sweeney agreed that Dixon will receive probation before judgment on both counts, meaning the convictions will be wiped off her record if she complies with several conditions, including a $45,000 charitable contribution and 500 hours of community service.

Dixon will also be barred from seeking employment with the city or state for four years. However, she would be free to run for public office again after that time, as long as she complies with the terms of her probation. The deal also allows her to keep her city pension, which she would have had to forfeit with a conviction on her record.

“This is a result that makes a lot of sense for Miss Dixon and the city of Baltimore,” said Arnold M. Weiner, the mayor’s lead attorney. However, he added, “I think the people of Baltimore would have been better off if she’d been able to remain as mayor.”

Dixon had faced two separate criminal trials. The first, which began in November, dealt with allegations that she stole gift cards intended for needy families. Her trial on two counts of perjury was scheduled for March.

In pleading guilty to one of the perjury counts, she acknowledged that prosecutors would present evidence that she received thousands of dollars in cash, fur coats, travel and other gifts from Ronald H. Lipscomb, a prominent developer who received tax breaks from the city.

Dixon and Mr. Lipscomb dated in 2003 and 2004. But she did not report any gifts from Mr. Lipscomb despite a requirement that she disclose gifts from people doing business with or regulated by the city.

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