Days after plea, Holton to go to Palm Beach on city's dime

Baltimore City Councilwoman Helen L. Holton, who pleaded no contest this week to a campaign finance violation, will attend a three-day conference in Palm Beach, Fla., next week at the city's expense.

The city spending board voted Wednesday to approve the $1,100 trip for Holton, who will be attending the National Association of Counties conference there from Oct. 13 to 15.

Holton pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor stemming from a deal she struck with developer Ronald Lipscomb and bread magnate and developer John Paterakis Sr.

Holton asked them to pay $12,500 for a poll during her 2007 re-election campaign, circumventing campaign finance regulations and exceeding the $4,000 cap on donations from individuals during an election cycle.

A related and more serious bribery charge, which was dismissed on the grounds that elected officeholders' official acts cannot be used as evidence against them and appealed by prosecutors to the state's highest court, remains before the Maryland Court of Appeals.

Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young, who presides over the five-member Board of Estimates, abstained from Wednesday's vote. His spokesman said Young normally abstains from votes involving council members.

Spokesman Lester J. Davis said the trip was planned long before the plea deal was announced and that Young, who serves as leader of the council, "did not have a role in picking who went on this trip."

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake voted in favor of the expenditure. Asked whether Holton's trip should be approved after her plea, Rawlings-Blake said, "I don't think the two are related."

"She is a working councilwoman with a budget, and the expenses are part of that budget," Rawlings-Blake said.

Holton's expenses are to be paid from the elected officials' expense account. The board approved $36 per day for hotel costs and $40 per day for food, in addition to the usual daily $164 subsistence rate for the location.

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