A Baltimore County grand jury yesterday indicted former County Councilman Gary Huddles in the alleged theft of $50,379 from his campaign treasury, which he used to cover stock investments more than a year after he withdrew from public life.
Mr. Huddles, a four-term Democratic councilman who at one time considered a run for county executive, was indicted for allegedly taking the money in four separate withdrawals between Nov. 6, 1987, and Dec. 21, 1987, and depositing it in the Signet Bank account that he shares with his wife, Linda, according to the indictment returned by the grand jury.
State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli said that Mr. Huddles is charged with theft, misappropriation by a fiduciary for using campaign funds for personal purposes and failure to pass the funds through his campaign treasurer.
If convicted on all counts, Mr. Huddles could face up to 21 years in prison and fines of up to $1,000, Mr. Montanarelli said.
Mr. Huddles declined to comment yesterday and referred all questionsto his attorney.
His attorney, Robert B. Schulman, said that state election laws remain vague on the subject of candidates' borrowing funds from their campaigns and that his client is anxious for the case to go to trial "as soon as possible" so he can be cleared.
He said the Maryland General Assembly considered a bill in the 1991 session that would have prohibited the borrowing of money from campaign treasuries by candidates but failed to enact it.
"We think that Mr. Montanarelli is trying to do an end run around the legislature by asking the courts to usurp its authority on campaign financing laws," Mr. Schulman said.
Mr. Montanarelli declined to respond to the allegations, saying that such claims would be addressed in the Baltimore County Circuit Court trial.
The indictment charges that "as a prospective candidate . . . and having raised funds for campaign purposes with the intent of being a candidate in the 1986 election," Mr. Huddles used the money "for personal purposes not related to the campaign."
But Mr. Schulman said that Mr. Huddles only borrowed the money -- a practice he claimed is common among elected officials -- to cover margin calls on his investments when the stock market plunged in October 1987.
He said the case is based on information provided by Mr. Huddles in a campaign finance report he filed in August 1990 -- long after it was due.
"He always filed his campaign finance reports; that's the way he was," Mr. Schulman said.
Mr. Huddles repaid the money with interest in January 1989, Mr. Schulman said.
Mr. Huddles, who represented the 2nd District based in Pikesville, was considering a run for either Congress or county executive in 1986 when it was disclosed he had an unpaid $60,000 loan from convicted savings and loan swindler Jeffrey A. Levitt, the former head of Old Court Savings and Loan. Mr. Huddles later repaid the loan with interest.