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Expulsion of Md. Senator Urged

State Sen. Larry Young, (D-Baltimore)
Sen. Larry Young
File Photo
By Charles Babington
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, January 13, 1998; Page A01

Maryland's legislative ethics committee took the rare step yesterday of urging the state Senate to consider expelling Sen. Larry Young for using his public office to make thousands of dollars from private ventures.

Senate leaders quickly embraced the strongly worded report, causing some legislators to conclude that Young (D-Baltimore) will be expelled if he doesn't resign first. The Senate president said Young – a locally popular but controversial politician who has achieved second-tier leadership jobs in the Senate – was shocked by the recommendations and asked for a week to decide what to do.

Unless he resigns quickly, the recommendation is likely to dominate the opening days of the General Assembly, which convenes tomorrow, and it may cause election-year headaches for Young's fellow Democrats. No Maryland senator has ever been expelled under similar circumstances, and it has been 200 years since any Maryland legislator was expelled by a vote of his peers.

The Young investigation, prompted by a Dec. 3 article in the Baltimore Sun, has caused worry and discomfort in Maryland's part-time legislature, where many of the 188 lawmakers have jobs that are affected in some way by General Assembly actions. Legislators are supposed to disclose potential conflicts of interest, refrain from benefiting directly from their offices and either refrain from voting or announce that they are not unduly influenced when voting on a topic related to their livelihood or personal interests.

Young's supporters say he is being pursued for the types of transgressions that other legislators occasionally have committed. But yesterday's report by the joint House-Senate ethics committee said the amount of money Young made and the magnitude of his alleged ethics violations went well beyond previous cases brought before the panel. The state's special prosecutor, who is authorized to bring criminal charges, also is looking into Young.

"This is one of the worst moments in the Senate's history," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's). Asked if he thought Young should resign, Miller said, "That would certainly be a consideration."

Miller said he will immediately strip Young of all leadership positions and even his customary seat on a regular committee, as the ethics panel recommended. The ethics committee said the Senate should censure Young and "consider" expelling him. Miller said votes on censure and expulsion will take place within 10 days.

Young did not return phone calls placed to his home and office.

The Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics said Young "brought dishonor" upon the General Assembly and "betrayed the public trust in many ways. . . . [His] behavior manifests the worst fear that citizens have about the officials they vote into office: that our officials will use their position of authority and power to benefit themselves financially."

Young, a product of west Baltimore's working-class neighborhoods, has become an influential figure in state health care matters and a key player in the Democratic politics of Maryland's major city. He is one of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's staunchest supporters, and he headed a recent delegation of Baltimore senators who gave the governor an early endorsement in his 1998 reelection bid.

Young is chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, the Executive Nominations Committee and, most important, the Senate Finance subcommittee that handles all health care legislation. He used the subcommittee post, the ethics panel concluded, to persuade several national health care companies to pay tens of thousands of dollars to private companies that Young ran from his legislative district office in Baltimore.

The ethics committee concluded that Young received many thousands of dollars from Coppin State College while performing few services under a no-bid oral contract. Young voted on measures that helped the state-supported college without disclosing his business relationship, which state ethics laws require.

The ethics committee also concluded that Young or his companies received tens of thousands of dollars from New Jersey-based Merit Behavioral Corp., which has mental health contracts with many state governments. The committee said the money amounted to an improper gift because Young did not perform services worth such compensation.

Similarly, the panel said Young solicited and accepted an illegal gift – a new car – from Willie Runyon, owner of a Baltimore ambulance company with major state contracts.

Through a spokesman, Glendening (D) praised the Senate leadership's action. "I am sure the full Senate will do what is right to ensure public confidence in the integrity of the legislative process," the governor said.

Ellen R. Sauerbrey, a Republican hoping to defeat Glendening in the fall, issued a statement linking the governor to Young. She said it is "no surprise that the disgraceful kind of conduct Governor Glendening exhibited with his pension scam and fund-raising scandal has been mirrored by Senator Young, one of his closest political advisers."

Public pressure prompted Glendening to give up part of a generous public pension plan in 1995, and he decided to reject all money from a 1996 fund-raiser hosted by Merit Behavioral Corp. in New York City and attended by Young.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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