With a Glen Burnie resident charged with stealing dozens of pro-slots signs last weekend, each side in the slots question says it has lost countless signs to vandals in the tight ballot fight over whether to allow a slots parlor by Arundel Mills mall. Experts say emotions rarely run high over ballot questions.
David Scott Corrigan, 50, who told court officials that he is a $160,000-a-year manager with Northrop Grumman in Glen Burnie, is not affiliated with No Slots at the Mall, the group against slots at the shopping mecca, or similar interests, according to his lawyer, the organization and the Maryland Jockey Club, which hopes to steer the project to the Laurel Park race course.
Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., which has a license to build the slots parlor at the mall, is lobbying heavily for the "Question A" zoning measure on next Tuesday's ballot.
The ballot question addresses only a zoning issue. If the "no" vote prevails, slots would not automatically go to the racetrack.
Corrigan was released on personal recognizance Saturday by a District Court commissioner after Anne Arundel County police charged him with property destruction and theft of between $1,000 and $10,000. No trial date has been set and police said the investigation is continuing.
"Apparently, he is about as low-key and mainstream as people come," said Corrigan's attorney, Byron L. Warnken.
"I know that he is a religious man, and I can tell you he is not supportive of gambling," said the University of Baltimore law professor, who also is in private practice. His client "would never do something that he thought was illegal," Warnken said.
Polls have likely Anne Arundel County voters statistically tied on the ballot question. A recent poll from OpinionWorks, the polling company retained by The Baltimore Sun, showed 47 percent supporting the ballot question, with 45 percent against; the margin of error is 5 percentage points.
Both the No Slots group and the Cordish-backed Jobs & Revenue group have complained to police about missing and destroyed signs. Each side has said it has told its supporters not to do anything illegal, and suggested its opponents do likewise.
David Jones, chairman of the No Slots at the Mall Coalition, said at least 4,000 of his group's signs have vanished in the past two months. Todd Lamb, campaign manager of the Jobs & Revenue groups, said they are out 700 signs in the past few weeks, which prompted them to put a camera on their property. The video that was captured, which is on YouTube, purports to show Corrigan's arrest.
"It's rare that you will get somebody so energized about an issue that they will tear down the signs," said Dan Nataf, director of the Center for the Study of Local Issues at Anne Arundel Community College.
That, he said, may be because issue fights typically are dull compared to candidate contests. But this issue is hot.
In court documents, police said that shortly before 4 a.m. Saturday they saw a man who at first look could have been taken for a State Highway Administration worker, outfitted in a reflective shirt and yellow hard hat, by the headquarters of Jobs & Revenue Corp. on Ritchie Highway in Severna Park.
They saw the person cutting a "Vote for Question A" from a wood frame, charging documents said. When asked what he was doing, "he then answered, 'I am taking down the sign,'" according to the documents. Asked why, "he stated because I am against it," police wrote.
They also wrote that they returned 70 signs from the suspect's Toyota Tacoma to Jobs & Revenue.
A Northrop Grumman spokesman said the company had no comment.