Archive for Saturday, January 10, 2009

Mayor accused of pocketing gift cards

Sheila Dixon indicted on counts of perjury, theft

January 10, 2009


— From Best Buy to Saks Fifth Avenue, from Old Navy to Giorgio Armani, prosecutors allege Mayor Sheila Dixon went shopping in a big way with other people’s money.

Dixon was indicted Friday on 12 counts, including perjury and theft, mostly for activity that occurred while she was City Council president. And most of the charges against her suggest an affinity for both high-end and big-box retail.

At one point in December 2005, the indictment says, Dixon brazenly called an unnamed developer and hit him up for $500 worth of Best Buy gift cards, which she said would be donated to needy families.

Instead, five days later — and a week before Christmas — the future mayor allegedly strolled into a Best Buy in downtown Baltimore and spent 19 of the 20 gift cards, walking out with a digital camcorder and a PlayStation 2 controller, among other goods.

Similar scenarios played out several times, always with gift cards that, at least in name, were supposed to be handed out to the poor, the indictment says.

“The allegation is that she stole from little children at Christmastime,” said David Gray, a law professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.

The indictment against Dixon was the culmination of a wide-ranging investigation of city government that lasted nearly three years. The charges against Dixon include four counts of perjury and two counts of theft under $500. The perjury counts relate to her failure to disclose gifts from Ronald H. Lipscomb, a developer who received tax breaks from the city.

Lipscomb, who dated Dixon briefly in late 2003 and early 2004, first bought gift cards for Dixon under the auspices of handing them out to the poor in December 2004, according to the indictment. Dixon held onto them for a year before using them during her Christmas shopping in 2005, the indictment says.

The same thing went on in 2005 and 2006, the indictment says, including that 2005 gift from a different developer. And in 2007, Dixon allegedly received Toys R Us gift cards from a city employee and gave one to a staffer, keeping several more.

During a lengthy denunciation of the indictment, Dixon’s attorney, Arnold M. Weiner, said most of the gift cards she received went to the intended recipients and characterized the ones she kept for herself as private gifts that she was under no obligation to disclose.

Dixon said she would not step down, and public appearances for today remained on her schedule.

Dixon, a 55-year-old Democrat, served on the City Council from 1987 through 2007 and as council president from 1999 through 2007. She became mayor in January 2007, finishing the term of Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, and was easily elected to a full, four-year term later that year.


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