The corruption trial of Sheila Dixon, Baltimore’s first woman mayor and the city’s first African-American City Council president, has ignited concerns from some Black leaders that White lawmakers might be plotting to replace her with a Republican or non-Black politician.
Dixon, who is still revered by many residents of the nation’s 20th largest city, went on trial Monday to combat a three-year-old state inquiry, involving seven counts of theft and embezzlement. In part, she is accused of spending $1,500 worth of gift cards intended for needy families while she was City Council president and mayor. Once this trial is over, she could be forced to defend against charges that she failed to report thousands in cash, travel and clothes on city ethics forms from her former boo, Ronald H. Lipscomb, who received millions of dollars’ worth of city tax credits for his development projects.
“Just Friday morning, the mayor stepped out of her car on a dead-end street in my district, and the neighbors spontaneously applauded,” Mary Pat Clarke, a City Council member and friend of the mayor, told The New York Times. “She has successfully guided the city through the impact of major state funding cuts to the city, minimizing layoffs, maintaining basic services intact and preparing us for the inevitable next round in February 2010.”
Clarke is one who believes that the Republican prosecutor was politically motivated in his investigation, the Times reports.
She isn’t the only one.
“I think [many residents] have also been surprised by the somewhat pedestrian nature of the theft charges – both the amounts at issue, which are relatively small, and the circumstances under which she is alleged to have stolen them,” said Andrew Levy, a law professor at the University of Maryland.
Dixon, who is backed by the Maryland NAACP as she denies all charges against her, said, “The truth will come out, and that’s all I have to say about that.”
If convicted, Dixon would be forced by the Maryland Constitution to relinquish her office; she would also become ineligible for her $83,000 annual pension and would no longer receiver the $151,700 annual salary she earns as mayor