CECIL CHATTER: No $ for Candidates or Properties; Stolen Political $ Yields Taylor Wrist Slap
CLARK TURNER, DEVELOPER AND POLITICAL DONOR, FILES BANKRUPTCY
Clark Turner, a major area developer and significant financier of Cecil County political candidates, has filed for personal and business bankruptcy. As a result, continuation of some significant developments in the county and future sources of campaign funds to county candidates in the upcoming 2016 elections are in question.
Turner, a Harford County developer who has been active in housing development in Cecil County, and his business entity, Clark Turner Homes, LLC, filed for bankruptcy court protection earlier this month in federal court in Baltimore. (The Baltimore Business Record first reported the filings exclusively.) The filings were under Chapter 7 of the bankruptcy code, which generally indicates a plan to liquidate business and other assets rather than to seek a stay of actions by creditors while the applicant seeks to re-organize business and financial affairs.
In Cecil County, the most visible current project by Turner and his development operations is the Charlestown Crossing mixed-use housing development. Originally proposed for a blended “planned unit development”—the only such project of its kind in the county— earlier this year Turner came back to the county and won planning and zoning approval to shift the project from a mix of single family homes, townhouses and apartments to increased numbers of rental apartments. Business and retail spaces originally proposed for the project have yet to materialize.
In the federal court filings, Turner Homes listed assets and liabilities of roughly equal amounts ranging from $1 million to $10 million. But his personal financial difficulties were more unbalanced, listing assets of about $1 million to $10 million but liabilities as high as $100 million.
The Cecil County government was listed as a creditor on court filings, which did not specify the amount Turner business entities owed. Winston Robinson, the county’s Director of Finance, told Cecil Times that the amount owed was a nominal $7,500, stemming from unpaid real estate taxes and sewage user fees. County Director of Finance Al Wein said that the Charlestown Crossing project did not have any tax abatements or incentives from the county that could be affected by the bankruptcy filings.
Turner, his business entities and senior employees have been major political donors in Cecil County election campaigns. In the 2012 first-ever election for Cecil County executive, Turner businesses and employees were the major source of campaign cash for North East Mayor-for-Life Robert McKnight when he ran in the Democratic primary for County Executive, according to state Board of Elections records. McKnight lost to Pam Howard, and then the Turner forces switched their monetary allegiance and substantial donations to Republican Tari Moore in the general election. Moore won that contest, but has announced she will not run again for County Executive in 2016.
With Turner and his business interests on the financial ropes, that means a significant source of political donations will be out of the picture in the 2016 elections, in which the county executive slot is up for grabs, as well as two County Council seats.
TAYLOR GETS WRIST-SLAP for GOP PARTY $ THEFT
Carrie Taylor, the former Treasurer of the Cecil County Republican Central Committee, got a court wrist-slap for the theft of $8,860 from the GOP Committee, under a plea bargain in which she only admitted stealing $1,000 but agreed to pay restitution of the full amount.
And instead of the up to 25 years in prison she could have received under the original multi-count felony theft and perjury indictments, Taylor was granted five years of probation and 200 hours of community service. In granting the probation, Anne Arundel County Circuit Court Judge Michele D. Jaklitsch suspended a sentence of five years in prison, in favor of allowing Taylor to stay out of jail and serve supervised probation.
The sentencing was announced by State Prosecutor Emmet C. Davitt, who conducted the investigation after members of the Cecil County GOP committee reported financial irregularities in the handling of a bank account over which Taylor had control as the GOP committee Treasurer. In the indictment against her, the State Prosecutor alleged that she had stolen money via a debit card and cash donations to the committee and used the funds to purchase two airline tickets, pay for parking at her job site and also purchased a membership in an online dating service.
After Taylor cut a plea deal on 8/17/2015 and admitted guilt to lesser charges, CECIL TIMES filed a state Public Information Act request to obtain further information, including the names on the two airline tickets purchased by Taylor with ill-gotten gains from the GOP committee. But senior aides to the State Prosecutor denied the request for information, saying that disclosure of the names on the airline tickets would set an improper precedent for handling of confidential information obtained as part of a criminal investigation.
[SEE previous CECIL TIMES report on Taylor’s guilty plea here: http://ceciltimes.com/2015/08/carrie-l-taylor-pleads-guilty-to-theft-from-cecil-county-gop-committee-stole-for-online-dating-services-travel/ ]
Taylor was a protégé of the local “Smipkin” political machine, headed by former state Sen. E.J. Pipkin and former Del. Michael Smigiel, both R-36th District. Pipkin’s wife helped install Taylor as chair of the county Republican Women’s Club, which then became a campaign cash conduit for moving political funds around to support candidates favored by the Smipkin machine—including Taylor herself, who ran unsuccessfully for Cecil County Treasurer in a GOP primary election. Taylor was subsequently appointed to a seat on the county’s Liquor Board, paying her $2,500 a year, thanks to her Smipkin political support among the old “Three Amigos” majority of the County Commissioners board.
In announcing the multi-count criminal indictment of Taylor, the State Prosecutor said in August that Taylor “quite simply abused the trust that the Cecil County Republican Central Committee placed in her. Committee treasurers must recognize that misuse of committee funds for personal use cannot be tolerated.”