More subpoenas in Dixon probe

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A day after investigators raided Mayor Sheila Dixon's home, more city employees received subpoenas in what appears to be an accelerating investigation into City Hall spending practices.

Two new subpoenas went to city employees and two to non-employees yesterday, City Solicitor George Nilson said. He declined to say who received them. Those came on top of five other subpoenas to city employees Tuesday.

Among those the state prosecutor's office is seeking to question is Edward Anthony, a longtime close friend of Dixon's who works in the city Housing Department, according to a source familiar with the investigation. Shortly after she took office, he was promoted to a job overseeing the disposition of city-owned property. It was unclear yesterday whether Anthony has received a subpoena.

Separately, Beatrice Tripps, who served as chief of staff when Dixon was president of the City Council, was subpoenaed months ago, The Sun confirmed yesterday - a further indication of the scope and focus of the probe.

The Maryland state prosecutor's office has been investigating city contracts and spending for two years, but Tuesday's raid marked the office's most aggressive action yet. With the new round of subpoenas, more officials with ties to Dixon are expected to appear before a Baltimore grand jury in the coming days.

Dixon continued to present an image of calm at public events yesterday, but she refused to provide details about what prosecutors removed during their seven-hour search. Dixon followed her public schedule, announcing the African American Heritage Festival and the creation of a committee to study the reuse of a public elementary school. But she faced questions from reporters about the raid throughout the day.

"All I can say is that I have been cooperating with them. ... I'm trying to keep the city running and moving and stay focused," she said. "I'm not really going to comment any more on this at this point. And I don't know how many other ways to say it, but I'm going to continue to stay focused."

Asked what items prosecutors removed from her house during the raid or whether she would provide a copy of the search warrant prosecutors provided before entering her home, Dixon directed reporters to her attorney, Dale P. Kelberman.

Kelberman, a former federal prosecutor, declined to provide the documents.

Typically, such information is available publicly after search warrants are executed, but Maryland law allows judges to seal those documents. The prosecutor's office has declined to comment on the case.

Byron L. Warnken, a law professor at the University of Baltimore, said that nothing in the law precludes a person from divulging the contents of a search warrant that was served on him or her but that most attorneys would probably counsel their clients not to do so.

"I would tell them to refer questions to me, their attorney, and then I could be the bad guy," Warnken said. "They could say that 'My attorney advised me that I shouldn't discuss the search warrant.'"

Prosecutors began their investigation after a series of articles in The Sun detailed questions about spending practices when Dixon was president of the City Council. For instance, Dixon repeatedly voted on contracts that benefited a company that employed her sister.

In another case, the council paid a former Dixon campaign chairman $500,000 to perform computer services work without a contract. The owner of that company, Dale G. Clark, pleaded guilty to tax charges in September.

Tripps, 53, was suspended from the president's office in 2006 after she sent an e-mail to Clark's company suggesting that it keep its invoices under $5,000 to avoid scrutiny from the city's Board of Estimates.

"I received a memo back from the Law Dept. and they suggest that if we do a new contract we should do it by the book," the e-mail read. "At this point I think the best thing to do would be to pay you as a selected source ... for amounts under $5,000."

The council president's office continued to seek competitive bids for the computer work four times over the next four years. Each time the bids were rejected for various technical reasons and Clark continued to be paid.

Dixon brought Tripps in as a deputy chief of staff when she became mayor in 2007. A flow chart of positions in the mayor's office from that time shows that the executive directors of the city retirement systems and the Wage Commission report to Tripps.

"I'm not answering those questions," Tripps said repeatedly when asked about the subpoena yesterday. "I'm not answering those questions."

Nilson said that the city's law department was not involved in representing Tripps and that she instead used her own lawyer.

Anthony, who oversees the sale of city-owned property for the housing department, was promoted to the position last year.

The mayor has denied intervening on his behalf and said that housing officials made the selection.

Asked about his relationship with Dixon at that time, Anthony told The Sun: "My personal life is my personal life. ... I stand on my own merits and my own strengths."

Reached by phone, Anthony declined to comment.

Prosecutors have served a series of subpoenas on city employees who formerly worked with Dixon in the president's office. At least five were issued Tuesday.

Those employees are Lauretta Brown, now deputy director of the mayor's Office of Constituent Services; Chelsea Scott, a secretary in the mayor's office; Sharon Jackson, an assistant in the mayor's office; Wanda Watts, with the city's Health Department; and Anne Lansey, with the Department of Transportation.

The raid and the new subpoenas seemed to represent a rapid escalation in an investigation that had proceeded largely out of the public eye for the last two years. The mayor appeared to take the news in good spirits and even joked with reporters.

During a discussion about free health screenings available at the African American Heritage Festival, Dixon offered a variation on a theme she often sounds about the importance of being healthy mentally and physically.

"Just to let you know, for those of you who might think that I'm a little stressed out today, I'm not," Dixon said. "I look at my God [and] I look at what I do physically and mentally."

The rotunda at City Hall, filled with her supporters, erupted in applause.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

lynn.anderson@baltsun.com

Sun reporter Doug Donovan contributed to this article.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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