Raid signals more trouble for Baltimore mayor
By BEN NUCKOLS 6 days ago
BALTIMORE (AP) Sheila Dixon has reduced violent crime and gracefully handled a variety of crises since taking over as mayor in January 2007, but a two-year state investigation of her financial dealings as City Council president threatens to overshadow her successes.
Investigators searched Dixon's home for more than seven hours Tuesday, and five city employees were subpoenaed to testify before a grand jury.
She denies any wrongdoing, but experts say an indictment could derail Baltimore's progress. The city, the third most-violent in the nation in 2007, is on track this year to have its lowest homicide total since the 1980s.
Dixon's attorney, Dale Kelberman, said investigators seized documents from the mayor's house, but he did not know what they were and had not seen the search warrant.
Dixon told reporters she is cooperating with prosecutors but had no idea what they were seeking.
She was City Council president from 1999 until 2007, when she was sworn in to finish the term of now-Gov. Martin O'Malley.
She won a full four-year term in a landslide last fall, becoming the first female and second black elected mayor.
Seen by some as a divisive figure during her time on the City Council, Dixon has won over skeptics with her shrewd management of an often-troubled city of about 624,000, including an estimated 40,000 heroin addicts.
"The city, in spite of a bad economy, seems to be moving forward," said Matthew Crenson, a political science professor at Johns Hopkins University. "Things look pretty good, but (an indictment) could make them look pretty bad."
Dixon said Tuesday she will stay focused on running the city despite the raid on her home.
"I don't have anything to hide," she said.
The probe involves city money that went to companies employing Dixon's sister and her former campaign chairman.
In November, prosecutors raided the offices of Doracon Contracting Inc., which had hired Union Technologies as a subcontractor on an east Baltimore project that received millions of dollars in city and state subsidies.
Dixon's sister, Janice, worked for Union Technologies, and Dixon had advocated for the project as council president.
Union Technologies owner Mildred Boyer pleaded guilty in March to falsifying tax returns. Prosecutors have said she agreed to cooperate on "other matters," but her attorneys have said she has no connection with the mayor.
In a separate case, Dixon's former campaign chairman, Dale G. Clark, pleaded guilty last year to failing to file state income tax returns after earning $500,000 without a contract as the City Council's computer consultant. Clark's attorney said he did not believe his client's interviews with state prosecutors produced evidence that implicated the mayor.
The Baltimore City Board of Ethics cleared Dixon of wrongdoing last year.
"The mayor has done nothing wrong," Kelberman said. "That's why no charges have been filed."
State Prosecutor Robert Rohrbaugh said his office does not comment on investigations.
Andrew D. Levy, a defense attorney with experience in public corruption cases, said Tuesday's raid of Dixon's house does not mean charges are imminent.
"The mayor is in the worst possible position in a circumstance like this," Levy said. "These pictures of investigators carrying boxes out of her house make for great television, but they don't mean she's guilty of anything."
Crenson, however, said that if Dixon isn't indicted, Rohrbaugh will "look pretty silly."
"The evidence must have been pretty compelling to get a judge to issue a search warrant for the mayor's private residence," he said.