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Indictments for a city councilwoman and a developer

Yesterday's indictments of Baltimore City Councilwoman Helen L. Holton and developer Ronald H. Lipscomb, the former boyfriend of Mayor Sheila Dixon, was not the atomic bomb that the probe into City Hall corruption could have yielded.

But they raise some intriguing political questions that remain unanswered. As our colleagues Annie Linskey and Julie Bykowicz reported, it is highly unusual for a an incumbent council member in heavily Democratic Baltimore to commission a poll, even if they are considering a run for city-wide office. (Holton was repotedly mulling a run for comptroller, if the position was vacant.) So why did she want a $12,500 survey? Who did the work? (The indictment names Company Z, which intrepid reporters will surely uncover soon.)

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And why did Lipscomb agree that his company, Doracon Contracting, would pay for the survey? Lipscomb knows campaign finance laws well, and knows how to exploit loopholes. He knows -- because he has done it -- that a series of limited liability corporations can give campaign donations that, added together, exceed the state limit on donations from individuals and individual companies. Why didn't he use that technique, and the many LLCs he controls, to get money to Holton?

And just how influential has Holton been in getting tax breaks through the city council? Is there really a quid pro quo here? The biggest question of all will be answered soon: Will the mayor be snared in the state prosecutor's investigation before the current grand jury disbands this week?

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So many questions. So much time passed during this investigation. So little time left this week.

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