Dixon 'floored' by charges, 'bothered' by Obama snub

The Baltimore Sun

Mayor Sheila Dixon, in her first extended television interview since she was indicted in January, told WJZ that she was "floored" by the accusation that she stole gift cards from needy families and "bothered" that Barack Obama snubbed her during a pre-inaugural visit to Baltimore.

Reporter Adam May said the interview was granted without ground rules, though Dixon told the station that she would not answer specific questions about the 12-count indictment filed against her after a nearly three-year investigation of City Hall corruption by the state prosecutor's office.

Dixon is charged with theft, perjury for failing to disclose gifts from developers and misuse of office. She has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing and did so again in the interview.

Dixon said, "I was floored" when accused of taking gift cards intended for low-income families.

"I was very bothered, and that hurt, particularly when I knew it wasn't true," she said.

Dixon also spoke about Obama's visit to Baltimore. In a nationally televised speech Jan. 17 in the shadow of City Hall, Obama did not mention Dixon, though he complimented the mayors of Philadelphia and Wilmington, Del., earlier in the day as his train passed through those cities.

"Was I bothered by it? Yes," Dixon said. "Others noticed it and were upset that not even he or the governor or Congressman [Elijah E.] Cummings mentioned my name. I'm human.

"That was a lonely part," Dixon said.

A three-minute segment containing portions of the 25-minute interview aired on WJZ yesterday evening. A second part is scheduled to be broadcast tonight.

Dixon, a Democrat, took aim at State Prosecutor Robert A. Rohrbaugh, saying that the criminal investigation has been driven by partisan motivations. Rohrbaugh was appointed by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

"This prosecutor has been after me for a number of years," Dixon said. "In some circles, I was told it was intentional."

Dixon's voice wavered, particularly when May asked about reports that she had cried after being indicted. Dixon replied that she became emotional after learning of the charges because she was surprised and embarrassed on behalf of her staff.

"They work for me," Dixon said. "Just put yourself in that situation. Your boss is being accused, and you are working to build a city."

About the indictment, Dixon said: "It concerns me, but it does not control me."

Despite her difficulties, Dixon said that she has never regretted seeking the mayor's office and plans to run again. She said her administration's accomplishments compare favorably with those of her predecessors.

"In the past two years, I've done more than my predecessors have in 12 or seven years," Dixon said, referring to the tenures of Mayors Kurt L. Schmoke and Martin O'Malley, who is now governor.

dixon interview

Watch Part 2 of WJZ's interview with Mayor Sheila Dixon today at 6 and 11 p.m.

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