Investigators Probe Currie Ties to Mall
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Federal investigators want to know whether Sen. Ulysses Currie was involved in a redevelopment project at Baltimore's Mondawmin Mall, where a Shoppers Food and Pharmacy opened in 2007.
Prosecutors from the U.S. attorney's office have issued subpoenas to the Maryland Transit Administration and the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration seeking information about any contacts with Currie (D-Prince George's) concerning grocery stores or shopping centers, specifically including Mondawmin Mall.
They also requested any communications between the agencies and representatives of Shoppers or its parent company, Supervalu.
The federal investigation of Currie became public May 29, when the FBI raided Currie's home in District Heights and the Lanham corporate office of Shoppers. Currie, who chairs the powerful Senate Budget and Taxation Committee, has served as a consultant to the company, but he did not reveal the relationship on financial disclosure forms.
In a related development yesterday, the State Highway Administration said it has received a subpoena from federal investigators about any contacts with Shoppers, Supervalu or Currie involving transportation-related issues at shopping centers, including traffic signals, signs or road improvements.
Maryland Department of Transportation spokesman Jack Cahalan said the three agencies will "cooperate fully with the U.S. attorney's office in response to the subpoenas."
"The agencies are reviewing their records to determine what, if any, documents may be responsive to the subpoenas," he said.
Currie has referred all questions about the investigation to attorney Dale Kelberman, who declined to comment yesterday.
Mondawmin Mall, in northwest Baltimore, was purchased in 2004 by Chicago-based General Growth Properties, which has been working to rejuvenate the 50-year-old retail center, in part by bringing in a grocery and a Target store.
The mall has an MVA office and is next to a Baltimore transit hub owned by MTA. As part of the redevelopment project, General Growth Properties swapped small parcels of land with the MTA last year.
State and city governments have aided the redevelopment project in other ways. Baltimore approved a $10 million tax incentive, and the state Department of Business and Economic Development gave the developer $1.8 million for improvements, a grant that required the mall to open a full-service grocery store.
Karen Glenn-Hood, a spokeswoman for the department, said officials there were not aware of any contacts with Currie about the project or the grant. She said the state money will not directly benefit Shoppers.
A spokesman for General Growth Properties said the company is looking into whether Currie has played a role in the project. Supervalu spokeswoman Haley Meyer declined to comment on any role Currie might have played in the opening of the Mondawmin store. Meyer said the grocery chain is cooperating with authorities.
Currie participated in at least one meeting about Mondawmin and urged the project forward, according to source who was in state government at the time and was familiar with the negotiations. The source asked to remain anonymous because of the investigation.
Court papers show that FBI agents seized documents about the Mondawmin Mall project from the Shoppers headquarters, including a letter from the MVA to Currie about the project and a list of people, including Currie, invited to a news conference about the mall.