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Developer's Crime Must Be Viewed in Context

What is the story behind the story regarding Steve Whalen's guilty plea?

The guilty plea of Steve Whalen on 5 counts of campaign finance violations proves he funneled $7500 to Councilperson Quirk and exceeded spending limits.

This should be viewed in context with promises made by the Councilperson during his 2010 campaign, a review of the Office of the Special Prosecutor’s statements of facts, the timeline of events, and his land use decisions affecting Whalen since being elected?

Only then can voters decide whether or not to believe the Councilperson’s claim that he was unaware, and not a willing participant, of the developer’s crime?

During the 2010 campaign, the Councilperson assured many, including his own treasurer, he wouldn’t take money from Steve Whalen. A Quirk supporter wrote the following regarding the Republican candidate’s return of a Whalen donation. “Apparently, now it is politically expedient to return those contributions...The timing is revealing. Call it hypocrisy, call it lying, call it what you will. It is dishonest.” Another wrote, “The Board of Elections site indicates that candidate Quirk received no contributions from Mr. Whalen.”

In late October 2010, I discovered Whalen Properties conducted several polls regarding candidate preference and the Promenade during the primary and general election. Results were shared with Quirk and another candidate preventing the required filing of a gift in kind donation. I

went to the State’s Office of the Special Prosecutor who decided the charges merited investigation. It unearthed, a Quirk campaign volunteer who stated the candidate “wanted to keep his distance,” from the developer. Although the Prosecutor concluded that the polling did happen, the developer had exploited legal loopholes preventing formal charges from being filed. It would appear both men were conducting themselves in ways to prevent the public from knowing the full extent of their relationship. The released Statements of Facts (look under the Prosecutor’s Press Release Page) support this conclusion. It states Whalen and Quirk emailed back and forth regarding Whalen’s ability to raise money for the councilperson.  

On September 19, 2011, the Councilperson submitted the PUD resolution for Whalen Properties’ Southwest Physicians Pavilion. This PUD resolution was submitted approximately three weeks after Whalen funneled money to Quirk. The resolution states the site is a Transit Oriented Development (TOD). According to Smart Growth groups like Reconnecting America TOD’s are defined as mixed use developments that seek to limit the reliance on the automobile by proximity to a mass transit and tied into a tightly knit grid of streets to make it walkable/bikeable. Given that FACT that the site sits on the beltway and is 6 blocks away from a one line only bus stop, it's a fraudulent statement to suggest the project is a TOD. The PUD’s own development plan actually states there is “limited bus service.”

Quirk has also up-zoned, at Mr. Whalen’s request, a parcel of land the developer didn’t own. He has remained silent about the release of MEDCO’s Spring Grove report which outlines a mixed-use development almost identical to Whalen’s proposed Promenade and suggests the sale of about 20 acres to an “undisclosed developer.”  The MEDCO report and is also referenced on page three of the Statement of facts.

After discovering oddities in Quirk’s campaign finance records, I again turned to the State’s Special Prosecutor on February the 21st, 2012. These accusations first became public with the release of Catonsville Promenot’s first video published on YouTube June 26, 2012. The Councilperson has had months to look into the charges and to review the funds delivered to him by Whalen.

If he had, he would have found three $2500 donations from individuals given to him by people who didn’t live in his district, who had no history of political giving, with one working for Whalen Properties. I’m reminded of the aforementioned Quirk supporter whose statement bears repeating, “Apparently, now it’s politically expedient to return those contributions... The timing is revealing. Call it hypocrisy, call it lying, call it what you will. It is dishonest.”

Campaign finance laws attempt to prevent individuals and corporations from manipulating our political system.  The campaign finance reports they provide help informed voters to sift through statements and voting records to determine if politicians are lying or telling the truth. We are now faced with the following question: Are the presented facts purely coincidental or are they evidence of a broken and corrupt system? One thing is plainly evident. We can argue about these laws’ adequacy, but not about their necessity.  

In conclusion, some conservative bloggers have been stating things like, “See we told you, the Democrats are corrupt.” On this, let me be clear. Democrats are the ones who discovered this crime and filed these complaints against Councilperson Quirk and Steve Whalen.

Many Democrats refuse to be cogs in the machine and are disappointed with the status quo involved in local politics. My wife and I are Democrats, in part, because we believe in protecting the vulnerable and disenfranchised. We believe in sticking up for the little guy. That’s exactly what we’ve done and what we’ll continue to do. I’m proud to be part of a family who hasn’t been afraid to speak truth to power and whose determination has helped bring some degree of justice to the people of our district. I’d also like to express deep gratitude to the Office of the Special Prosecutor for their integrity and hard work regarding this case. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Kelly Blue January 05, 2013 at 06:43 PM
Lets see Mr. Paul Hategarra stand up to the heat when it starts, like running a catering business from your home Paul? It's a residential neighborhood do you think that's appropriate for your Catonsville neighbors? Hmmmm? Maybe someone needs to check on your zoning to see if that's allowed. And btw how many of your suppliers gave campaign money to your wife in her failed attempt to win an election? If she had won were there any FAVORS to be given to those suppliers such as perhaps exclusive rights to sell you their food supplies? Were there any discounts given to you by your suppliers that in turn you used for her campaign??? Questions need to be answered by you. Lets open the books Mr. Transparency. Put out there on your website for all to see. You see Mrt. Hategarra what goes around comes around.
Kelly Blue January 05, 2013 at 06:59 PM
How many people posting about this live in College Hills or Hidden Bluffs, really bad projects right? Was the Catonsville Professional Center, Rolling Crossroads or how about Charlestown a bad idea. OMG they took an old seminary with rolling fields and woods and turned into the best retirement community in the area that thousands have enjoyed. My oh my these dam developers. Dongarra and their ilk are not FOR Catonsville they're for themselves. Catonsville would be a much better place without them. And to all of the Hategarras out there, don't shop at the Giant at Wilkens that property used to be ball fields. So don't compromise your principles. You need to go to the A&P in downtown C'ville and get your prescriptions filled at Moss Drugs and when you want to see a movie make sure it's only the Alpha Theatre. Mr. Hategarra do you even know anything about Catonsville?
Paul Dongarra January 05, 2013 at 10:41 PM
My home address is my home office. I rent a commercial kitchen in Columbia where I am regularly inspected by the health department. The only time food comes home is when we have left overs that are donated the next day to our area homeless shelter or to share with my neighbors. If that is a problem, I will just have to start throwing it away. I also have a garden and use some of the veggies I grow. Feel free to stop by next summer, I'd be glad to give you some. It's true some of our vendors donated. We are a good clients, easy to work with, and we pay our bills on time. I don't see anything wrong with that, just like there was nothing wrong with the Jolles of Jolles Insurance making a donation to then candidate Quirk. I am sure his financial planning business refers business to them. Gift in kind donations from vendors and/or friends for copy writing, photography, and graphic design were all reported in Rebecca's reports. Perhaps when you bring up vendors and glass houses you should realize that Councilperson's finance records show him taking cash from companies like: Spindler Refuse, Ruppert Sanitation, Hartey's Trash Management, and Parks Refuse, Pollard Towing, two individuals associated with ACS (the Speed Camera Company), and one from the President of the firm that built Hillcrest Elem's addition. Do any of these people do business with the County? Enough of this foolishness, however, I have to vacuum my house...lol!
Kelly Blue January 06, 2013 at 12:01 AM
" The only time food comes home is when we have left overs that are donated the next day to our area homeless shelter or to share with my neighbors... I also have a garden and use some of the veggies I grow." So the great zoning expert has a commercial business and commercial garden (you are selling product grown on your property) in a residential neighborhood, I thought you were the zoning guru. Additionally you are looked at as a kind and generous person for giving away food that other people paid for. You are a wonderful human being. Perhaps it's time for you to review the zoning laws vs ranting against law abiding citizens.
Paul Dongarra January 06, 2013 at 12:27 AM
My wife and I are not anti-development, we are opposed to poorly planned unnecessary development driven by greed that causes our current commercial corridors to erode. If Whalen Properties had proposed to redevelop Wilkins Plaza or Security Square Mall, I would applaud him. There are many great and exciting adaptive use and Transit Oriented Development (TOD) projects around the state: Union Mill, http://theunionmill.com/about/ The Oella Mill http://www.oellamill.com/,Camden Yards, and what is happening in North Bethesda, http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/whiteflint/ . The PUD on Kenwood Ave claims to be a TOD. It is not. Why are we upzoning land and issuing PUD's on land that hasn't been built on when there are many existing brown fields in need of redevelopment? Could it be that developers make more money when these parcels are purchased and then upzoned and/or a PUD issued? Because when this happens, it's almost like spinning straw into gold. Could it be that developers and their attorney's give and/or raise lots of money for our council to continue this alchemy of land use decisions?

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