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Pollster in City Hall corruption case identified

Doracon Contracting President Ronald Lipscomb is accused of paying a bribe.
Doracon Contracting President Ronald Lipscomb is accused of paying a bribe. (2004 Sun photo by Elizabeth Malby)
New court filings in a City Hall corruption case identify the pollster who conducted a $12,500 survey for a Baltimore councilwoman as part of a transaction that prosecutors allege was a bribe.

The pollster is Ronald Lester of Lester and Associates, a firm that has been active in Democratic politics for years. Lester, who lives in Silver Spring, could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Last month, City Councilwoman Helen L. Holton was accused in an indictment of sending the bill for the poll to Baltimore developer Ronald H. Lipscomb. In exchange, prosecutors say, Holton shepherded tax breaks for projects that Lipscomb was involved with through a City Council committee she headed. Lipscomb was accused of bribing a public official.

Both deny the charges.

Lester, whose name had not previously been disclosed, is not accused of wrongdoing. He has worked for several Maryland candidates, including conducting a $16,000 poll for Prince George's County State's Attorney Glenn Ivey and doing several polls for Prince George's County Executive Jack Johnson, state campaign finance records show.

No information has been provided on the questions contained in Holton's poll or what the results were. It was conducted in 2007, when Holton was considering a run for citywide office.

Court documents also show that state prosecutors raided a storage facility on Russell Street when they searched the East Baltimore headquarters of Doracon Contracting Inc., Lipcomb's firm.

The documents were filed Tuesday by the Office of the State Prosecutor, which has conducted a nearly three-year investigation into City Hall corruption that has also resulted in the indictment of Mayor Sheila Dixon.

In the most recent filing, prosecutors denied all but one of 26 requests for additional information made by Gerard Martin, a defense attorney for Lipscomb. The sole question they answered was to identify the polling company. The judge assigned to the case will likely have to determine whether prosecutors must answer more questions, including several related to how the facts of the case fit the charges.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Levin said the moves were to be expected: "It is not at all unusual that a defendant will request a bill of particulars in a case like this. And it also is not unusual that the government is not willing to answer."

Prosecutors sounded frustrated at some requests. For example, Lipscomb's lawyers wanted prosecutors to spell out the businesses Lipscomb controls.

Prosecutors responding by writing: "It borders on the unbelievable that Mr. Lipscomb does not know what he owns or in which project he has been involved, especially since Mr. Lipscomb himself provided much of the documentation about his ownership when it was subpoenaed."

Martin said his request was proper, that he is "trying to get them to tell us what the case is all about."

Separately, prosecutors have provided 9,000 pages of documents for Lipscomb's defense attorney to review, according to court papers.

Former Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve Levin's name was misspelled and he was misquoted in an earlier version of this article. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.


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