Maybe we guessed wrong about Dixon

The Baltimore Sun

No surprise that the prosecutor who's been dogging Sheila Dixon for years thinks she's corrupt. The real shocker, if her indictment is to be believed, is that Sheila Dixon thinks Sheila Dixon is corrupt.

Dixon might have looked dirty to most of us for allegedly taking lavish gifts from a developer and giving him big city tax breaks, but I'd always imagined that her conscience was clear.

Blind to conflicts of interest? You bet.

Conscious of them? Self-conscious about them? No way.

Yet the indictment describes someone who knows she's got something to hide, the sort who ought to be indicted on Richard Nixon's birthday, as she was Friday. It has Dixon passing 40 $100 bills to a city employee inside a car and asking him to launder the cash so it could be used to pay her credit card bill.

If the prosecutor's got that right, then I must admit I had Dixon wrong.

She'd acknowledged that she'd had a relationship with developer Ron Lipscomb and that they'd "exchanged" gifts. The City Charter forbids public servants from taking gifts from people doing business with the city, but Dixon claimed they were tokens of affection, not bribes.

Common Cause might not have bought it. Personally, I didn't buy it. But I always figured that Dixon had convinced herself that all's fair in love and city contracting.

Even some of the most sensational details that trickled out last summer, in a search warrant affidavit filed when prosecutors raided Lipscomb's office, seemed to bolster Dixon's dating defense.

The affidavit claimed that in March 2004, Dixon and Lipscomb flew out to Chicago, where in a single day, they managed to drop more than $7,000 at Armani, Saks Fifth Avenue, Coach and Niketown. Overshadowed by all the titillating designer details was this: Lipscomb didn't foot the whole bill. At least that's how it looked in the affidavit.

He bought the plane tickets, at $1,518 apiece, the affidavit said. But she picked up the $1,695 hotel bill. Lipscomb whipped out his credit card at some stores. But the $570 Jimmy Choo sandals from Saks, the $600 spent at Coach, the $4,410 dropped at Giorgio Armani - all that went on Dixon's own American Express.

So they were going dutch, right? A boyfriend and girlfriend shopping together, but separately. They were in another state, and in another state of mind, one completely divorced from their roles back in Baltimore as granter and recipient of city largesse.

Anyway, that's how I figured Dixon saw it. How that church-going woman who wears her faith on her mink sleeve could hold her head so high.

And then Friday's indictment lands. And in it, an account of what supposedly happens when Dixon's AmEx bill lands.

About three weeks after that Chicago weekend get-away, Dixon receives her credit card statement, the indictment states.

Outstanding balance: $16,207.57.

Minimum payment due: $7,514.

Value of being friendly with a wealthy developer: Priceless, if the prosecutor is right.

Right around that time, one of Lipscomb's employees cashed a $15,000 corporate check and gave the cash to Lipscomb, the indictment states.

Days later, someone - the indictment doesn't say who - made a $6,000 cash deposit at an ATM into Dixon's checking account.

Fortuitous, but not quite enough to make that AmEx minimum.

But a few weeks after that, as Dixon was being driven from her home, she handed $4,000 in cash to one of her staffers, identified only as "Baltimore City employee #1," the indictment states.

She asked the employee to deposit the money into his personal bank account, then write a personal $4,000 check to American Express to pay the balance of the bill, which he did, the indictment alleges.

They say love is blind. So's justice.

But if the indictment's right, Dixon's eyes were wide open.

Boats for the thrifty

Nothing says recession like the installment-plan yacht.

This year's Baltimore Boat Show, Jan. 21 through 25 at the Baltimore Convention Center, will feature an "Affordability Pavilion."

"As consumers are increasingly more conscious of how they use their disposable income, the 2009 Baltimore Boat Show will illustrate the affordability of boating, even in these tough economic times, with a new 2,000 square foot Affordability Pavilion," reads the news release.

"The Baltimore Boat Show will highlight boats that can be financed for less than $250 per month."

Thank goodness the days of easy credit are back.

Connect the dots

Anna Jensen, 13-year-old daughter of The Baltimore Sun's Peter Jensen, was taking her weekly batting instruction at Grand Slam USA cages in Timonium on Thursday around 5:30 p.m. when she looked over at the next batting tunnel to see a tall man with a terrific swing knocking the cover off the ball. "Turns out he's a well-regarded player on the Catonsville Community College squad," Peter Jensen reports. "But her eyes really grew wide when she spied the man's brother who was sitting in a plastic lawn chair watching the action. It was none other than Joe Flacco. Guess the Ravens starting quarterback likes to spend his free time supporting his bro." ... On The Daily Show the other night, Jon Stewart marveled that Minnesota was still counting votes in the Senate election. "You're supposed to be one of the smart states," Stewart said. "I mean, if this was Maryland or one of those states that we all know should be wearing a helmet, you know, we'd be fine."

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