Young Tops Md. Senate Agenda
By Charles Babington and Lisa Frazier
As 75 supporters rallied and sang outdoors, Young (D-Baltimore) made a brief and quiet appearance on the Senate floor. Later, however, he appeared more defiant than ever.
Addressing his supporters near a statue of Thurgood Marshall, Young said he had little to apologize for. The Senate has no business expelling him, he said, and the seat "belongs to the people of the 44th District."
In an interview, Young said that he plans to answer the ethics allegations point by point tomorrow and that if he is expelled, he will challenge in court any Senate effort to block his quick reappointment.
Lawmakers said Young's ethics case will dominate the General Assembly for the next few days and may reverberate throughout this year's statewide elections. Some African American supporters of Young, who is black, are warning of a political backlash if he's treated too sternly, and Republican and Democratic opponents of Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) say they will keep reminding voters of the governor's close political alliance to Young, who helped turn out Baltimore Democrats in the 1994 campaign.
Young's lawyers sent a letter to Senate leaders yesterday, saying he did not receive a fair hearing from the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics, which issued a highly critical report Monday on Young. They called for a new review by a panel authorized to subpoena records and witnesses.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) said he will reject the request. He vowed to convene the Senate on Saturday and Sunday if that's what it takes to dispose quickly of the Young case, which in addition to causing some racial divisions in Annapolis and elsewhere has prompted calls for greater scrutiny of legislative ethics and state procurement laws.
"We're going to start early and put this very unpleasant business behind us as quickly as we can," Miller said from the podium, shortly after calling the Senate into session yesterday afternoon.
Miller and other Senate leaders have called on Young to resign, saying a large majority of senators are almost certain to support his expulsion.
No senator has been expelled under such circumstances in Maryland history.
The ethics committee report said Young had used his legislative office improperly to procure grants and contracts worth many thousands of dollars from a state college and from health-related companies.
The office of State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli is investigating the matter with an Anne Arundel County grand jury, which already has issued subpoenas for records involving some of Young's business dealings.
The FBI also is looking at the ethics committee's 8,500-word report on Young in what spokesman Larry Foust called a "preliminary inquiry."
Young appears determined to keep fighting, even if he's expelled, a scenario that could play into the hands of Glendening's opponents. The latest to take a shot is Ray Schoenke, a Montgomery County Democrat and former Washington Redskins football player, who is planning to challenge Glendening in the September primary.
Schoenke said yesterday that Glendening should have demanded Young's resignation. "We look to the governor again for leadership on this matter, and he can provide nothing," he said.
Glendening, who invited reporters and photographers along when he went bowling with Young last year, has said the Senate is handling the ethics matter properly.
Young said he is positioned to be reappointed to his seat within 30 days of an expulsion. Most members of Baltimore's Democratic Central Committee which fills such vacancies have said he has their votes, Young said. "I would expect to be back in," he said.
The Senate hopes to prevent that. Its expulsion resolution says Young should be "expelled for the remainder of the current four-year term," which runs through December. Young said his lawyers will argue that it's unconstitutional to limit the central committee's choices.
Meanwhile, Republicans are pushing for new investigations that could involve Merit Behavioral Care Corp., a New Jersey-based mental health contractor that paid many thousands of dollars to Young and held a controversial fund-raiser for Glendening. The ethics committee said Merit's payments to Young amounted to illegal gifts solicited by the senator.
Del. Robert L. Flanagan (Howard), the House GOP whip, said health care providers who gave gifts to Young may have violated Maryland's procurement law. He sent a letter asking the state attorney general's office to investigate and possibly begin proceedings to bar those contractors from future state contracts.
"Their conduct was outrageous," Flanagan said. "I think what happened here was that things went on for a long time, and no one questioned Larry Young's actions for years and years."
Young's attorneys and supporters say the ethics committee's investigation was too rushed and spotty to form the basis for expelling a senator.
"While we recognize and appreciate [Miller's] desire to avoid the distraction to the session, it shouldn't be accomplished at the expense of Senator Young's rights, which I think are being trampled on," said Gregg L. Bernstein, one of Young's attorneys. His letter to Miller called for a more thorough review by a panel authorized to subpoena witnesses and records, a power the ethics committee lacks.
Miller, a lawyer, said the 12-member ethics committee conducted a thorough and fair review. "Everyone knew the ground rules," Miller said. "Senator Young asked to have the matter referred to the legislative ethics committee. . . . Now his attorneys want another trial. We're going to proceed" with the expulsion debate and vote.
Bernstein said Young went before the ethics committee because Senate leaders gave him no choice.
Young's legislative supporters echoed Bernstein's arguments yesterday.
"Our position is due process was not given Senator Young," said Del. Clarence Mitchell IV (D-Baltimore). "A legislative committee that deals with policy is not a court of law. . . . Our Constitution holds that you are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. So, political expedience should not supersede his constitutional rights."
Rep. Albert R. Wynn (D-Md.), a former state senator, said he was "a bit concerned" about the handling of the Young case.
"They've unearthed some ethical transgressions, but there's no precedent for expelling a member who is unindicted and unconvicted," Wynn said during a visit to the General Assembly yesterday. "Stripping Senator Young of his committee positions would be understandable," Wynn said, "and I'm not saying that what he did was right."
Staff writers Richard Tapscott, Daniel LeDuc and Paul W. Valentine contributed to this report.
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