Friday, February 10, 2006

Dixon Under Fire

Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon's political future may not be quite as bright as she's planned.

The city's ethics board has decided to investigate her "involvement in several official meetings that appear to have benefited the firm that employs her sister Janice," The Baltimore Sun reported today. The article explained the matter:

On Monday, The Sun disclosed that Dixon participated last Thursday in a council committee hearing held to determine whether Comcast of Baltimore has honored the terms of its cable television franchise by hiring minority subcontractors.

At the hearing, Dixon asked Comcast why it was no longer subcontracting with specific minority firms -- including Union Technologies, which employs her sister. But the president never disclosed her sibling's job during the hearing, nor did she do so in her financial disclosure filing with the ethics board.

In a new development, the councilwoman who chaired the meeting, Helen L. Holton, said it was Dixon who first suggested the idea for the hearing at a council luncheon last month.

The Sun also reported this week that Dixon, despite assertions to the contrary, did not abstain from voting at three Board of Estimates meetings in the past two years on contracts that ultimately awarded nearly $1 million to Union Technologies, also known as Utech.


Dixon's actions may not only be unethical, they may be illegal. Ethics law prohibits any councilmember from acting in "any matter" involving a sibling or a sibling's employer, according to The Sun. Members must also disclose if a sibling works for a company overseen by or in business with the City. Dixon may have violated both counts.

Corruption always hurts the City; in this case, it may hurt Dixon's political fortunes as well. If Mayor O'Malley's campaign for governor is a success, Council President Dixon will automatically become Mayor when O'Malley trades in the city's top job for the state's. Dixon has hinted that it may be a position she's interested in keeping.

But this corruption scandal may hurt her chances of doing so. After filling the vacancy left by O'Malley, the post will be up for election. Other Baltimore political players have expressed interest, which means Dixon could have a tough race on her hands. She was involved in another scandal last year, when the Ethics Board ruled that employing her sister violated the rules. Anyone see a pattern emerging? Baltimore's voters may see it, too.

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