Jan 18, 2010
A six-year saga of investigation for corruption has ended with the conviction of the mayor of Baltimore, Sheila Dixon, on a single charge of taking a few hundred dollars worth of gift cards. The cards, which she solicited from friends, were supposedly for the needy. She was convicted of using them for herself.
At sentencing in early January, Dixon agreed to resign – receiving probation before judgment. Her plea bargain included community service, restitution of money – and keeping her city pension of $83,000 per year!
But if there is really a crime going on, it’s not about gifts for the mayor. It’s about political favors for big developers. The investigations revealed that the mayor had accepted expensive gifts and then not reported them from a developer, Ronald Lipscomb. Lipscomb’s company had ties to many other companies, including one of Baltimore’s biggest developers, John Paterakis.
These people feed off public funds by getting multi-million dollar contracts and tax breaks. Baltimore’s budget, for example, just gave a 34 million dollar tax break to two inner harbor buildings renovated by Paterakis.
Dixon’s case provided a small window into the world where business and politics meet.