Controversy over a fundraiser nearly a month ago at Baltimore's exclusive Elkridge Club continued to reverberate last week in Maryland's political world -- with the fallout touching Republicans and Democrats alike.
On Tuesday, Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan (D) demanded that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) apologize for the June 20 event at the golf club, which has had no black members in its 127-year history and gave up a state property tax break in 1977 rather than reveal its membership list.
Ehrlich earlier dismissed the flap as "all a bunch of nothing," telling a talk radio host: "We have no access to the membership information. Obviously, we're renters. We come in and we pay our bill and we leave."
Duncan also challenged his Democratic gubernatorial rival, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley (D), to join him in demanding an apology from Ehrlich, calling it an "important civil rights issue."
On Wednesday, O'Malley dismissed Duncan's letter as a "desperate" bid for attention. O'Malley told a group of reporters that he had never had an event at Elkridge and that he never would. He was not asked if he had ever attended an event there, however.
On Thursday, it became clear that O'Malley had. WBAL radio talk show host Chip Franklin disclosed that Peter O'Malley, the mayor's brother and a top political adviser, had his 2003 wedding reception at the club.
Peter O'Malley said the venue was selected by his wife, Melinda O'Malley, a lawyer for the Maryland Insurance Administration, and her mother, neither of whom was familiar with the club's history.
On the matter of the wedding reception, Peter O'Malley said: "My wife asked about price, capacity, catering, things like that. It never occurred to her, in the year 2003, to ask if the place we were renting had any African American members. It certainly was integrated the day we were there."
Among the guests, naturally, was the mayor.
Since the story of Ehrlich's fundraiser broke in the Baltimore Sun over the July 4 weekend, it has ensnared a few politicians besides the gubernatorial hopefuls.
Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith (D) acknowledged having held a fundraiser there in May and said it was a mistake.
Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, a likely GOP Senate candidate who is black, meanwhile, drew flak from a Democratic club for his reaction to the disclosures.
"I don't know that much about the club, the membership, nor do I care, quite frankly, because I don't play golf," Steele told reporters. "It's not an issue with me."
That assessment drew a rebuke from Mel Franklin, president of the Greater Marlboro Democratic Club, who in a statement called Steele's comments "a slap in the face to African-Americans and other minority communities."
Words Over a Jail
O'Malley family ties were also on display last week when the mayor's father-in-law, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., filed a court brief opposing the city's attempt to join a lawsuit over Baltimore's state-run Central Booking and Intake Center.
The Office of the Public Defender filed suit in April, demanding improvements at the facility, which handles more than 100,000 people a year. Some of those arrested are held longer than 24 hours without being brought before a court commissioner.
Rather than join the public defenders, Curran argued, the city should join the state as a defendant in the case, because the police need to be part of the solution. "Finger-pointing doesn't solve the problem," Curran said yesterday.
Staff writer Cameron W. Barr contributed to this report.