Carl Stokes, one of four candidates vying to become the next president of the Baltimore City Council, has been repeatedly tardy in filing required campaign reports, and authorities have issued an arrest warrant for his last treasurer -- his brother.
Mr. Stokes was the only one of four council members running for the city's second-highest position to meet the most recent state deadline for updating his finance statements.
But six financial disclosure reports about his 1991 election were turned in late -- and the resulting fines went unpaid for two years -- prompting the state prosecutor to charge Mr. Stokes' brother with two counts of election-law violations.
State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli charged Steven T. Stokes Sr. last June with a misdemeanor for failing to pay $380 in late fees for campaign reports that were due May 5, 1992, and Nov. 9, 1992. Mr. Stokes, 42, did not show up for his day in court in November, and an Anne Arundel district judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
Councilman Stokes, who represents East Baltimore's 2nd District, paid off the outstanding $380 in two installments last April and November. Also paid was $80 for two bounced checks for late fees from earlier reports.
Yesterday, hours after The Sun questioned him about the reports, Mr. Stokes turned in two financial statements from November 1993 and 1994 that were still missing. His campaign has been assessed $500 in late fees.
Mr. Stokes blamed the problems on a misunderstanding by his campaign team. His treasurer and campaign manager, who are legally responsible, thought they had filed a final report several years ago, but the city elections board continued to require annual updates because there was a $833 balance. Candidates must pay all debts and return contributions or donate them to a charity before closing a committee.
Asked about his brother, Mr. Stokes said he was unaware of the misdemeanor charges. The councilman said his brother has moved from his last home, in the 1300 block of E. Lafayette Ave., and that he does not have his phone number.
"Certainly, I didn't realize all of this," Councilman Stokes said. "I'm not kidding with you, I don't see my brother much. I'm sure he will take care of this. Steven is not a fugitive."
The 44-year-old councilman asked his younger brother to serve as his treasurer when he ran for a second term in 1991. He has since brought in an accountant to handle a new committee for his council presidency campaign. That committee is up-to-date with all of its filings.
Disclosure of lapses in campaign reporting spurred some council members to take prompt steps yesterday.
Fourth District Councilman Lawrence A. Bell III, whose finance statements contain discrepancies ranging from incorrect entries to an unexplained deficit, replaced his last treasurer -- his mother -- with an accountant.
An indignant Joseph J. DiBlasi, who represents southern Baltimore's 6th District, turned in the most recent campaign report, designed to cover contributions and expenditures in the final months of 1994.
He continued to blame the state for failing to notify him about the new requirement. "An error has been made by them, and it ruined my perfect 16-year record," he said.
Council Vice President Vera P. Hall, the fourth candidate for the council presidency, said she intends to file the report but was too busy with city work yesterday.
Mary Pat Clarke, the current council president, who is challenging Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, was the first to come under criticism, for being nine weeks late in filing an updated finance report.
State election officials usually try for several months to collect fines for late reports, before turning over the matter to the state prosecutor. Of several hundred cases each year, only a handful go to trial, Mr. Montanarelli said.