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  • To African Americans, Sen. Larry Young's expulsion had a lot to do with race.
  • The joint committee laid out the case against Young.

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  • Excerpts of the Senate floor debate on the resolution to expel Young.
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    Young Expelled in Historic Vote

    Larry Young/TWP
    Maryland state Sen. Larry Young argues his case, disputing many of the allegations against him. (By James M. Thresher–The Washington Post)
    By Charles Babington
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Saturday, Jan. 17, 1998; Page A01

    Maryland senators voted largely along racial lines yesterday to expel Sen. Larry Young on ethics charges, marking the first such expulsion in the Senate's 221-year history and bringing to a climax a case that may reverberate throughout this election year.

    None of the state's nine African American senators voted to expel Young, the chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus, who was accused of misusing his office for private gain. But only two white senators joined them, and he was evicted by a 36 to 10 vote after an often poignant four-hour debate. One black senator did not vote.

    The legislature's ethics committee, after a month-long inquiry, alleged that Young (D-Baltimore) used the prestige and influence of his office to obtain many thousands of dollars in business from health companies and a state college, while performing very little work for them.

    The report by the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics also said he had accepted illegal gifts, including a Lincoln Town Car, and willfully failed to make mandatory disclosures of his business connections.

    Although only one senator, the co-chairman of the ethics panel, spoke publicly against Young in the debate, many senators said privately that they believed the violations were egregious and that they were eager to be rid of a lawmaker with a long history of legal and ethical controversies.

    His defenders said the ouster was unfair because there was no precedent for deciding when expulsion is warranted and because the vote came just four days after the release of the ethics report.

    Many of Young's critics and defenders alike within the Senate said race was not an issue in their votes, and there were few references to race during the somber debate. However, many of Young's backers in the balcony and across the state angrily complained that he had received unfairly strict treatment because he is African American.

    Summing up the case for expulsion at the opening of the debate, Sen. Michael J. Collins (D-Baltimore County), the ethics committee co-chairman, said: "The magnitude of the violations of the public trust were so severe [that] to restore the confidence of the citizens of Maryland in their government, in general, and the General Assembly . . . this extreme recommendation was necessary."

    Rising in his own defense, Young disputed many of the allegations against him, admitting only to "technical violations" of ethics laws, which he said are common among legislators.

    "Am I the only one to have this merit a death penalty?" he said, referring to expulsion. "We know otherwise."

    Young also said a white senator would not be judged so quickly.

    Immediately after the expulsion vote, the Senate voted 46 to 1, without debate, to censure Young. Young, who cast the only nay vote, then met privately with supporters in the Senate lounge for 15 minutes.

    When they emerged, several men formed a flying wedge to take Young out of the building and down the State House steps, through a shoving throng of reporters and photographers. Young said only, "My constituents will hear from me tonight."

    Young's attorneys said they may ask a court to overrule the Senate's expulsion order, which says he can't return until the Senate's next term begins in January 1999. Popular in his west Baltimore district, Young still controls the Democratic machinery that would name his replacement.

    Young supporters have said the Baltimore Democratic Central Committee might try to send him right back to the General Assembly, either to his just-vacated Senate seat or to a seat in the House of Delegates that would become open if a delegate was tapped for the Senate. Many politicians believe Young could win back his seat outright at the polls in November.

    Any scenario that keeps Young's case in the public eye could prove embarrassing to his Democratic allies, including Gov. Parris N. Glendening. The governor's adversaries already have attacked Glendening for relying heavily on Young, who has helped turn out voters and raise campaign funds for the governor.

    By acting quickly in response to allegations first raised in the Baltimore Sun, General Assembly leaders hope to keep the Young affair from dominating the rest of the legislative session and from mushrooming into a larger political problem for state Democrats.

    Senate leaders did their best to keep yesterday's debate, covered closely by a host of television cameras, from turning into a free-for-all. Collins and other Senate leaders were confident that they had at least 32 votes for expulsion, the minimum needed for the necessarily two-thirds majority. Therefore, Collins did not dwell on the charges against Young, and the debate was dominated by Young and those who voted against expulsion.

    To counter Young's contention that he is a victim of racism, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) had counted on yes votes from several blacks with leadership positions. But those hopes evaporated when the most senior African American in the Senate, Majority Leader Clarence W. Blount (D-Baltimore), changed his mind and decided to vote against expulsion.

    Blount was one of several African American senators who previously had said they would vote for expulsion. But he said he changed his mind as he plumbed his conscience at 5 a.m. yesterday. Senate sources said Blount's decision made it politically untenable for other blacks to vote for expulsion. Many of them had implored Young to resign in a closed meeting Wednesday, to no avail.

    During yesterday's debate, several black lawmakers said Young clearly deserved punishment, but not expulsion, a punishment never employed before.

    "We are now moving into an area that's uncharted," said Sen. Decatur W. Trotter (D-Prince George's). Here we are dealing with an individual's life. I think the idea of expulsion is too severe."

    Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden (D-Baltimore) said: "Is he the worst senator since 1797 to serve in this body? No!"

    The two white senators who voted against Young's expulsion were Brian E. Frosh (D-Montgomery) and Christopher J. McCabe (R-Howard). Both said that they felt the process was too rushed and that it was unclear whether Young had been able to assemble his best defense. Only one senator -- Delores Kelley (D-Baltimore), who is black -- declined to vote.

    Frosh unsuccessfully urged his colleagues to delay a vote. "I think we owe it to the citizens of Maryland," he said, to be "as fully informed as we can be."

    Young himself said he needed more time to assemble documents for his case. But Collins said the ethics committee had given Young and his attorneys all the time they wanted in a closed Jan. 6 hearing.

    Collins said Young's point-by-point rebuttals were either not credible or unrelated to the key allegations. Young's repeated assertion that he didn't realize that various financial disclosures were required is "untenable, incredible and unworthy," Collins said.

    Collins pointed to Young's contention that the Lincoln Town Car provided to him by ambulance company owner Willie Runyon was a loan -- even though Runyon had not accepted any repayment. "It's like you're speaking a different language from the language of the committee," Collins said.

    Young's activities are the subject of criminal inquiries by the FBI and state prosecutors.

    Several senators played down the racial makeup of the expulsion vote.

    In the Senate, "people are going on," said Sen. Gloria G. Lawlah (D-Prince George's), who is black. "How people voted wasn't a bone of contention. We all knew how it would come out."

    Like Blount, Lawlah earlier had said she would vote for expulsion. She changed her mind, she said, because "I felt it was too harsh."

    Sen. Ulysses Currie (D-Prince George's) said he traveled the same path. "As I listened to the debate, as I read the data, my mind changed," he said in an interview. "Initially, I responded based on the [ethics] committee report, but as I listened to the debate, I changed. When I read the charges and accusations, I just didn't think they warranted expulsion. He's not been convicted of a crime. He's not been charged with a crime. This is a governmental body. The people put him here."

    In the general public, Currie said, "I think it further widens the gulf between the races. People in the [black] community see this issue totally different" from whites. "What we did today, whichever way we voted, did nothing to move us toward what Dr. Martin Luther King dreamed about. That's the sadness of what happened."

    Sen. Roy P. Dyson (D-St. Mary's) rejected the idea that the Senate moved too quickly. "We have a process. We have a committee," he said. "They found a majority of these charges were valid. It went far beyond any gray area. Clearly, he used the system, used his position with the Senate, his good name to benefit himself. We righted a wrong."

    Sen. Jennie M. Forehand (D-Montgomery) voted to expel Young but later expressed ambivalence. She said that his defense was convincing on several points but that she felt forced to vote to expel to "protect the integrity" of public officials. "We went too quickly on this," she said. "He should have been able to face his accusers. . . . There were points brought out on this where, if I'd known earlier, my vote would have been different."

    Sen. Leonard H. Teitelbaum (D-Montgomery) said he was sympathetic to Young's complaint that the expulsion was done too quickly. But Teitelbaum voted to expel nonetheless, saying the legislature's three-month session provided no other option.

    Glendening said, through a spokesman: "Today's events were unfortunate. I hope the Senate and everyone else can now move forward and begin to focus on the issues that matter to most Marylanders.

    Staff writers Lisa Frazier, Avram Goldstein, Peter S. Goodman and Richard Tapscott contributed to this report.

    THE CASE AGAINST YOUNG

    The Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics recommended Monday that the Senate consider expelling Sen. Larry Young (D-Baltimore). The recommendation was based on the following findings of ethical violations, among others:

    Failure to disclose a contractual relationship with a state agency and conflicts of interest relating to Young's consulting relationship with Coppin State College in Baltimore.

    The ethics committee found that Young reached an agreement with the president of Coppin State to do consulting work at $4,000 a month, later increased to $5,000 a month, but did not disclose the arrangement and did not ask to be excused from voting on matters concerning Coppin State.

    Improper gift solicitation and acceptance.

    Merit Behavioral Care Corp., a regulated lobbyist, engaged a Young business, the LY Group, for consulting services in 1996 and 1997. The committee concluded that the amount Young received in 1996 to organize a minority health care conference, about $57,000, was "beyond normal and fair consideration for those services" and therefore constituted an illegal gift from Merit Behavioral Care.

    The committee also said that in November 1995, Baltimore businessman Willie Runyon accompanied Young to a car dealership, where Runyon paid $24,800 for a blue Lincoln Town Car and then put the car's title in Young's name. Young later obtained a loan of more than $20,000, using the car as collateral to obtain funds for his personal use, according to the committee. Young indicated to the committee that he intended to reimburse Runyon for the purchase of the car, but the committee said there was no evidence to date that he had done so. At the time, Young was chairman of the health subcommittee of the Senate Finance Committee, which the ethics panel noted was instrumental in drafting legislation affecting the Maryland Medicaid program. Runyon owns a Baltimore ambulance company that receives thousands of dollars in Medicaid reimbursements.

    Improper use of district office funds.

    The committee accused Young of violating General Assembly guidelines by using public funds to help defray the costs of running his business, which shares office space with his district office.

    Improper use of title for commercial purposes and use of prestige of office in connection with a member's private, professional or occupational activities.

    The committee said Young violated standards set by the committee that prohibit legislators from using the prestige of their office for commercial purposes. For instance, the committee said, Young listed his title as "Senator," in conjunction with his personal business activities, on the agendas for both the 1996 and 1997 conferences of a black health study group controlled by Young.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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