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A top aide to mayor is placed on leave

The Baltimore Sun

Anthony W. McCarthy, a top aide and spokesman in Mayor Sheila Dixon's administration, is being investigated by Baltimore County police for "inappropriate behavior" and was placed on indefinite leave from his position, the mayor's office confirmed yesterday.

A Baltimore County police spokesman said the department received a complaint about McCarthy's behavior last week, but the spokesman declined to make the report public or offer details about the complaint.

No charges have been filed, and McCarthy has not been questioned, police said.

Dixon learned of the investigation Saturday and convened a meeting Sunday to address the matter, a spokesman in the mayor's office said.

The administration released a statement confirming that an investigation is under way but offered no details about the nature of the complaint.

"I was shocked and disappointed to learn of the allegations currently being investigated by the Baltimore County Police Department," read the statement - the type of pronouncement that, a week ago, McCarthy would have crafted. "I trust Baltimore County to conduct a thorough and fair investigation of this matter."

McCarthy, 39, did not respond to several phone calls and e-mails seeking comment.

McCarthy had become the public voice of the administration - the only person authorized to speak publicly on its behalf - since becoming director of communications in January.

Help to Dixon image

He is largely credited with reshaping Dixon's image - which was dented by a series of earlier ethics scandals - just in time for this year's election, which Dixon won overwhelmingly.

In addition to his work at City Hall, McCarthy served as a pastor at the interdenominational Unity Fellowship Church in Mount Vernon and occasionally would wear his collar to city events.

His biography was removed from the church's Internet site, and officials at the church could not be reached yesterday.

Before joining Dixon's administration, McCarthy hosted a weekly news round-up program on WYPR-FM that featured reporters, including those who work at The Sun.

At various times, he has been a reporter, editor and publisher for The Afro-American, Baltimore Times and Gay Life newspapers. Last year, he ran unsuccessfully for the House of Delegates as a Democrat in the 44th District.

McCarthy also was Dixon's chief of staff for nine months in 1999 and 2000 when she was president of the City Council.

Rejoined mayor

He abruptly left that position, and many observers were surprised that - given that break - he signed on with Dixon shortly after she became mayor in January.

As director of communications for the mayor, McCarthy receives $93,600 a year.

His temporary replacement, Sterling Clifford - who has been serving as the Police Department's top spokesman - said McCarthy is technically burning down vacation and comp time, which means he is still on the payroll.

Bill Toohey, a spokesman for Baltimore County police, confirmed yesterday that the department received a complaint regarding McCarthy's "behavior," and said the complaint is being investigated.

Noting that McCarthy had not been charged, Toohey said police would not release the report until the investigation is complete.

"We are not confirming what the complaint is about," Toohey said, adding that releasing the report would be "unfair to a man that has not yet been formally charged."

Muted response

At first, the Dixon administration did not announce the change.

Instead, Clifford's name was included as the contact for a mayoral news release instead of McCarthy. After receiving questions from reporters, the administration released a preliminary statement announcing the leave without any details.

After Baltimore County confirmed that McCarthy was being investigated, the mayor's office released a second, slightly more expansive statement.


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