Ethically-challenged. The political culture of Sheila Dixon.

Maybe “Sheila Dixon 2016” is different than “Sheila Dixon 2006-2009.” Or maybe she isn’t. Are you willing to bet your family’s, your city’s future on it?

Every organization, whatever its type, has a culture that defines its character and behavior. Sheila Dixon’s administrations, when she was President of the City Council and then Mayor, were no exception.

Sheila Dixon at Comedy Factory

Former Mayor Sheila Dixon at the Comedy Factory

What’s striking about Ms. Dixon is that her particular culture, that is, her style of governing tends to put her personal interests above those of her constituents, the people whose welfare she is sworn to protect and promote. Her conviction for embezzlement and subsequent forced early departure from the Mayor’s office was not an anomaly, not a one-off event. It was, instead, the surprisingly simple conclusion to the first phase of Ms. Dixon’s political career during she showed repeated disregard for common sense and formal rules of ethical behavior that we have every right to expect from our political leaders. The money question is, will Phase 2 be any different?

To help you appreciate this Sheila Dixon political culture that we’re talking about, we’re giving you the titles of 12 articles published in the Baltimore Sun in 2006 when Ms. Dixon was still President of the City Council and then in June of 2008 after she had been elected Mayor. All 12 articles were written by Sun investigative reporter Doug Donovan. The quotes are the opening paragraphs from each piece. (Given the age of this post, links to these articles may no longer be active and/or may require a subscription to the online edition of the paper in order to retrieve them.)

The articles are all short and easy to follow. Read some of them. Read all of them, but know this… There are 5 other candidates for Mayor. They differ in experience and capabilities. Some are more qualified than others, but they all have something in common. None of them – only Sheila Dixon – is a convicted criminal, has been thrown out of office or has a demonstrated history of self-centered, ethically-challenged behavior as an elected official.

To be re-elected, Ms. Dixon is hoping that her behavior in office a few years ago has been either forgotten or forgiven. And forgiveness is a good thing. Everyone deserves at least a second chance, no question about it. That’s the argument, the leap of faith, Ms. Dixon is asking you to make. The thing is, that second chance needs to be earned and hers hasn’t been. More to the point, even if you believe she deserves a second chance, that doesn’t mean that you need to risk the future of your family and your city by re-electing her Mayor. There’s plenty of other things Sheila Dixon can do to redeem herself short of putting her in control of the city’s $2.5 billion budget, again, and trusting her to create the jobs we need and grow the city’s economy to the benefit of all its families.

As promised, here now are the links to 12 articles you may find interesting. In each case, you’ll see the article title/link, then the subtitle, the date it was published and the first paragraph of that article in italics. None of these 12 is about the specific indictment and subsequent conviction that resulted in her early departure from City Hall. These problems are in addition to all that.

1. “Dixon’s use of hearing at issue”
Asking Comcast about contractor her sister works for may raise ethics questions
February 6, 2006

“In what may be a violation of the city ethics law, Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon used an investigative hearing to press a major city contractor on why it was not awarding more work to a company that employs her sister.”

2. “Dixon erred, office says”
Council president amends financial disclosures form, ethics rules
at issue
February 7, 2006

“Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon made a mistake by not disclosing that her sister works for a company that is regulated by city government, officials from the president’s office said yesterday.”

3. “Dixon voted on contracts with sister’s employer”
Company listed as subcontractor
February 9, 2006

“Despite assertions to the contrary, Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon did not abstain from voting on city government contracts awarded to a minority-owned firm that employers her sister.”

4. “Ethics board to investigate Dixon actions”
City Council president voted on contracts affecting sister
February 10, 2006

“Baltimore’s Board of Ethics will investigate City Council President Sheila Dixon’s involvement in several official meetings that appear to have benefited the firm that employs her sister, Janice, the board’s chairman said yesterday.”

5. “Contract presents questions for Dixon”
Bidders angry in 2004 ethics review opening
February 21, 2006

“One of the Baltimore contracts that prompted an ethnics review of City Council President Sheila Dixon was the subject of the contentious hearings in 2004 and 2005 that involved accusations of bid steering.” 

6. “Firm tied to Dixon loses city approval”
Minority business found to operate from virtual office
March 4, 2006

“The company that employees Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon’s sister has been expelled from the city government’s minority subcontracting program because officials ruled that the firm’s office is no more than a telephone and mailbox, according to documents released yesterday.”

7. “Dixon steered work to ex-aide”
Clark firm received $600,000 over 6 years, most without contract
March 12, 2006

“For the past six years, Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon has steered government work worth at least $600,000 to her former campaign chairman, most of the time without a written contract.”

8. “Dixon probe begins”
Md. prosecutors seek documents detailing payments to friend’s firm
March 16, 2006

“State prosecutors have opened an investigation into the Baltimore City Council’s computer services contract, ordering city officials to turn over documents detailing how and why the city paid $600,000 to Council President Sheila Dixon’s friend for six years.”

9. “Deal adds a twist to Dixon probe”
Sister’s firm was subcontractor on project backed by council president
April 16, 2006

“Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon has acknowledged that she ‘twisted some arms’ to secure city land, money and tax relief for developers of an east-side housing complex known as Frankford Estates.”

10. “Probe includes Dixon’s furs”
Possible gifts are being investigated, source says
June 20, 2008

“State prosecutors are looking for Mayor Sheila Dixon’s fur coats and have been seeking information on gifts she received from people doing business with the city, new lines of inquiry in the probe of City Hall contracts involving her friends.”

11. “Dixon gifts probed”
Prosecutors look at mayor’s ties to developer who go city breaks
June 24, 2008

“Prosecutors are investigating whether Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon received thousands of dollars in gifts – including fur coats – from a prominent developer whose projects benefited from tax breaks and zoning changes she supported as City Council president, a document obtained by the Sun shows.”

12. “Dixon funds linked to firms”
Political donations come into focus
June 25, 2008

“Ryan O’Donnell, executive director for Common Cause Maryland, said that he did not want to rush to judgment on Dixon’s comments in which she admitted to having a relationship with and accepting gifts from a developer who did business with the city.”


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