Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has fired a West Baltimore minister, who acknowledged last week copying and distributing racist literature, for accepting pay from two rival mayoral campaigns.
He announced the dismissal of the Rev. Daki Napata, a mayoral aide, in a news conference at City Hall after a mayoral forum on radio station WWIN yesterday.
The Union Baptist Church minister was hired by the city in 1994. For the past three years, Napata has been on loan to the Empowerment Zone, a federally funded program created in 1995 to pour $100 million into hard-hit Baltimore city neighborhoods. Recent city records show he was paid $31,900 a year.
Last weekend, City Councilman Martin O'Malley said he paid Napata, also known as Tyrone Speights, $1,000 to help contact city ministers. Napata offered to help O'Malley as candidates sought the endorsement of the powerful Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance, a group of 200 predominantly African-American pastors.
Napata also showed up on the mayoral campaign spending reports of City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III. Bell said he paid Napata $500 to help him lobby the ministers, too. The alliance endorsed former City Councilman and school board member Carl Stokes. O'Malley said that after he paid Napata, he never saw him again.
Schmoke called Napata's actions "unethical" and said he fired him Tuesday morning after reading newspaper accounts of the incident.
"City employees can work for candidates on their own time, and they are encouraged to participate in the electoral process, but I thought that this activity just went over the ethical line and was going to be very destructive to this community," said Schmoke, who is stepping down in December after 12 years. "I just wanted to send a signal."
In addition to accepting pay from two mayoral campaigns, Napata acknowledged involvement in the production and distribution of 3,000 fliers with racist statements, purportedly created by a group with the name of "Aryan Blood Brotherhood." The material, mailed to voters last month, denounced blacks and Jews while "endorsing" O'Malley. Bell and O'Malley have denounced the material and denied association with it.
From his home last night, Napata said he was praying. Pressed for comment about the firing, he would say only that he has a lawyer and that "I intend at some point tomorrow to respond publicly."
Final mayoral forum
Schmoke announced Napata's dismissal after the final words were spoken in the last mayoral forum of the primary season yesterday morning on a gospel radio station broadcasting from downtown.
The 30-minute session began at 9: 30 a.m. on Spirit 1400 (WWIN-AM), the second of two back-to-back candidate forums yesterday, coming on the heels of a livelier 90-minute discussion on the "Larry Young Show" on WOLB-AM 1010.
Baltimore Urban League President Roger Lyons had the distinction of being the host of the last of a string of forums, debates and community meetings. No one has an exact tally of how many times the candidates have squared off over the past two months, although the candidates agreed they have spent more time with each other than they have with their families.
Unlike the two live television debates, which were limited to Bell, O'Malley and Stokes, the radio forums also included Conaway, the register of wills and most visible female candidate in the race.
Behind the scenes at station
Also unlike the television debates, the radio appearances featured an easy give-and-take during commercial breaks -- at least among Conaway, O'Malley and Stokes. The candidates seemed almost giddy at moments.
"I've enjoyed being with all these fellows, I really have," Conaway said at one point during the first forum on WOLB, when Young asked whether she was going to find jobs for them, should she become mayor. "Martin's going to be my city solicitor, and Carl's going to be my education czar."
On-air, things were markedly different, with candidates giving stock responses to questions on a variety of issues, ranging from health care to education to the environment. At one point, Stokes compared O'Malley to Republican Newt Gingrich, only to laugh off-air, saying he was paying O'Malley back for being so aggressive in their last television debate.
"I had to be," O'Malley protested, laughing, too. "I was told I looked like a pansy [in the first television debate]."
Young did manage to add something to the familiar format by playing "word association" with the candidates, asking them to give short off-the-cuff descriptions of various political figures.
O'Malley, asked to describe Bell, said: "friend and former political ally." Bell, asked to characterize O'Malley retorted: "a person who's very dishonest in using the word 'friend' in describing his relationship to me."
Voter participation drives
Despite the end of the forums, the campaign is far from over as candidates make one final weekend push before Tuesday's primary. Mayoral hopefuls will bombard voters with television commercials, radio advertisements and mail drops.
Efforts to get out the vote also went into high gear yesterday with Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development (BUILD) setting up phone banks at Union Baptist Church. Volunteers are calling city voters urging them to cast their ballots on Tuesday, the first mayoral election in 28 years without an incumbent mayor running.
In addition, races for City Council president and the council's 18 seats will be on the ballot. City Elections Director Barbara E. Jackson has predicted a voter turnout as low as 30 percent.
Today, WOLB will hold its voter push at North Avenue and McCulloh Street, where candidates are being asked to join in waving to city motorists. The drive will take place from 4: 30 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Pub Date: 9/10/99