O'Malley, Smith donor has ties to major project

The Baltimore Sun

A politically connected Maryland developer recently fined for making improper campaign contributions to the governor and Baltimore County executive owns buildings in Owings Mills near a major transportation project announced in March by those elected officials.

Edward St. John, chief executive of St. John Properties Inc., and his company own a 36-acre business community that is being developed between the Owings Mills Boulevard and Franklin Boulevard exits off Interstate 795 in Baltimore County, according to a company news release. In March, Gov. Martin O'Malley and County Executive James T. Smith Jr. stood with St. John when the governor announced a commitment to the I-795/Dolfield Interchange in Owing Mills.

The $28 million from the state will go toward engineering, design and some construction. A bridge and an extension of Dolfield Boulevard also are planned.

St. John and his companies have made donations to many political candidates, but O'Malley and Smith were listed in an affidavit filed by state prosecutors because a third party was used to funnel the contributions.

In 2006, St. John encouraged his vice presidents to make donations to be reimbursed through year-end bonuses. That year, six vice presidents of the company wrote checks to then-Mayor O'Malley for between $2,500 and $3,500 each, while five vice presidents donated to Smith.

Maryland law limits contributions from individuals or businesses to a total of $10,000 per four-year election cycle, with no more than $4,000 to one particular candidate.

Last week, St. John agreed to pay $55,000 in civil fines after an investigation by the state prosecutor revealed that he had made donations through subordinates.

O'Malley's administration has denied knowing of any wrongdoing. A spokesman for O'Malley said last night that the Dolfield Interchange project has been a top priority for Baltimore County for more than 10 years.

"This year, we were able to move that project forward," said Rick Abbruzzese, an O'Malley spokesman. "The project will benefit one of the fastest-growing areas in Baltimore County. We were able to put significant dollars into the transportation trust fund to address transportation projects throughout our state that have long been delayed due to chronic under-funding in previous administrations."

Abbruzzese added that the campaign had no knowledge of improper campaign donations, and that St. John will pay a significant penalty.

A representatives from Smith's office did not return phone calls seeking comment.


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