DECEMBER 02, 2009
For years at the center of a major City Hall corruption investigation, the notoriously crooked mayor of Maryland’s largest city—famous for being the first black woman to hold the office—has been convicted by a jury of embezzlement.
Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon was found guilty of embezzling gift cards donated to the city by a developer for poor families to buy herself expensive electronic equipment, fur coats and other items. The immensely popular Democrat had aggressively solicited the gift cards from developers with public contracts for Baltimore’s underprivileged families.
Earlier this year the veteran politician, who became Baltimore mayor in 2007, was indicted with a dozen felony counts, including theft, perjury, fraud and misconduct in office. Last summer authorities raided her home as they searched for evidence of her criminal activity, which evidently dates back to her years as City Council president between 2001 and 2005.
Dixon has been under state probe for about three years for a variety of crimes, including steering at least $600,000 worth of public contracts to firms that employed her sister and former campaign chairman. Most deals didn’t have a written contract and Dixon helped craft a way to keep payments under $5,000 so they wouldn’t need approval from the Board of Estimates.
Additionally, she helped her real estate developer boyfriend get millions of dollars in tax breaks and zoning changes. In return the boyfriend showered Dixon with lavish gifts as she used her power to help him secure several lucrative, high-profile Baltimore development deals.
Dixon also unscrupulously used a Baltimore charity, created to finance programs for the underprivileged, as a personal slush fund. In fact, her lavish $15,000 inauguration bash at a local ice rink was financed by the nonprofit, which allows local politicians to stash taxpayer funds without public scrutiny. The foundation also picked up the hefty tap for Dixon’s fancy Christmas cards.
Although Maryland’s Constitution says public officials must be suspended from office after a criminal conviction, Dixon has no intention of stepping down. In a statement posted on her official web site, Dixon thanks God for the strength he has given her and says that the jury’s verdict doesn’t impact her responsibility to continue serving.
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