Julie Bykowicz, Baltimore Sun, January 7, 2010
Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon will resign next month, part of a plea deal reached Wednesday that brings a years-long corruption investigation to a close and ends the tenure of the city’s first female mayor.
Dixon, 56, will be sentenced Feb. 4. Under the terms of the agreement, in which she added a guilty plea in a perjury case to last month’s jury conviction for embezzlement, she will cease leading the city that day.
She may not hold any city or state position for at least two years. She is to perform 500 hours of community service and pay $45,000 to charity. None of her attorneys’ fees can be paid with public money. If she completes her probation within four years, her criminal record will be wiped clean.
She will probably be able to keep her $83,000 pension, which she would begin collecting the moment she steps down.
The first black woman elected to the City Council presidency, Dixon has been a public official for 23 years. She was raised in West Baltimore, where she still lives. She is twice divorced and has a daughter in college and a younger son.
The prosecutor, who has been investigating Dixon since March 2006, said that the mayor’s defense team approached him about a week ago and that plea discussions began in earnest Monday.
Dixon’s attorney, Arnold M. Weiner, said she agreed to the deal because she felt she would otherwise “be dragging the city and the people of the city behind her” through what could have been years of court battles. He also said Dixon’s pension was a driving factor.
The agreed-upon sentence of “probation before judgment” in both cases, Weiner said, “was necessary for her to preserve the pension.”
Roselyn Spencer, head of the city’s employee and elected officials retirement systems, said Dixon is eligible to begin collecting her annual pension immediately on stepping down.
That case, which was to go to trial in March, involved lavish presents from her former boyfriend, developer Ronald H. Lipscomb, in late 2003 and 2004 when she was City Council president. Dixon did not report the gifts, which included a $2,000 gift certificate to a local furrier, shopping sprees and pricey trips to Chicago, New York and Colorado, on her financial disclosure forms, a violation of law punishable by up to 10 years in prison.
Dixon was indicted almost a year ago. Those charges were thrown out for technical reasons, and she was reindicted months later on one set of theft-related charges and a pair of perjury charges.
As part of Wednesday’s plea deal, the prosecutor will not pursue any criminal charges from his investigation of Dixon, and Dixon will not fight the jury conviction.