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Political Rival At Center of Developer Scandal

Paul Dongarra, husband of a woman who ran against Tom Quirk in 2010, had a hand in tipping the state prosecutor to straw donations made Steve Whalen.

Straw donations made to Tom Quirk by developer Steve Whalen appear to have come to light because of the actions of a political rival of the councilman.

Paul Dongarra said he became suspicious of claims made by Quirk that Whalen had not donated to his campaign and began looking through the councilman's campaign finance reports in early 2011. The review ultimately identified three illegal donations that lead to Whalen plead guilty in Baltimore County Circuit Court Jan. 3 to five counts of campaign finance violations.

"I was expecting to see donations when [Quirk] filed his report," Dongarra said during a phone interview. "I was wondering how much money Whalen was giving him and I didn't see any."

What he said he did find was donors with relationships to Whalen including:

  • Diane Underwood, a personal friend of Whalen's.
  • Darryl Hitt, a construction manager for Whalen Properties.
  • Michele Mandel, who is Whalen's personal trainer.

The three donated a total of $7,500 that was ultimately found to have come from Whalen in what is often known as straw donations. Dongarra said he found nearly $7,000 in other donations from people related to the developer that were not part of the State Prosecutor's case.

"I see patterns of what is going on," Dongarra said, adding that he provided the information early last year.

Dongarra provided copies of emails between himself and investigators at the State Prosecutor's office.

Dongarra is the husband of Rebecca Dongarra, a Catonsville Democrat who ran against Quirk in 2010 for the council seat previously held by Sam Moxley.

Paul Dongarra wrote his own account of his involvement in the Whalen prosecution in a blog post.

Both Paul and Rebecca have been active in opposing the redevelopment of Spring Grove Hospital Center and the Southwest Physicians Pavilion project—both proposed by Whalen. The couple are also involved in group known as Catonsville Promenot, which has been active in criticizing councilmembers over zoning decisions and opposes Whalen's Promenade project proposed for the state hospital.

"Open space is under assault," Paul Dongarra said.

Many of Whalen's projects are in the Catonsville area. Prosecutors this week highlighted 2011 emails between the developer and Quirk in which the two mixed discussions about the physicians pavillion and Spring Grove projects with discussions about raising money for the councilman.

"I hate to use the term corruption but it appears to be the case," Dongarra said. "It appears that there's a pay to play system in Baltimore County."

Quirk, for his part, has not been happy with the continued criticisms from the Dongarras.

In a July 2012 interview, Quirk said the Dongarras "continue to engage in these petty personal attacks and I resent it."

"I think Paul Dongarra spends every day doing everything he can to attack my personal integrity and character and I've had enough of it," Quirk said last year.

State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt declined to speak about Paul Dongarra's involvement saying it was part of the investigation.

"[Dongarra] is free to speak with you if he wants," Davitt said following Whalen's plea hearing in Towson.

Ironically, Whalen said Thursday that he made the three donations totalling $7,500 through three people including a friend, an employee and his personal trainer, in an attempt to avoid the scrutiny of opponents of his Southwest Physicians Pavilion project.

Whalen said those opponents, whom he did not name, would use information on the donations "to hurt me, hurt the project, hurt [Quirk]."

Whalen said he made the decision to mask the true source of his donations was made in an emotional moment.

"I was angry and I wasn't thinking," Whalen said.

"I thought I could [make the straw donations] and no one would know," Whalen said. "That was stupid."

Dongarra said Quirk and Whalen "miss the point" when they criticize his efforts as that of a bitter political rival.

"This is not about the 2010 election," Dongarra said. "This is about justice and showing how things are done in Baltimore County."

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.

David Taylor January 05, 2013 at 01:51 AM
"Jennifer" - "Sally" and "Kelly" - all accounts created over the course of the past few hours (5:10pm-7:45pm), all rabidly defending Quirk, and Sally tells us that "I so agree with Kelly and Jennifer." Hilarious... you thought that would go unnoticed? Anyone see anything fishy there? Three new "accounts" in the past three hours, all supporting each other's wild attacks/opinions... and defending corruption (go figure that, from these special newcomers to The Patch) Are these even real accounts/people? More Coincindences! http://towson.patch.com/users/kelly-blue/comments http://catonsville.patch.com/users/jennifer-84995707/comments http://catonsville.patch.com/users/sally-g-f01d09ff/comments
Geoffrey Atkinson January 05, 2013 at 01:56 AM
Well, seems to me that any unused buildings Spring Grove can be used for State of Maryland offices. MDOT just built a new HQ down in Hanover at great expense... seems to me that they could have renovated vacant buildings at Spring Grove and saved a lot of money (not to mention forests). Whalen and his greedy aims for Spring Grove are one thing... we all have to make a living I suppose... but it should not come at the expense of the state taxpayer. Spring Grove is a state facility on state land and should stay that way regardless of it is used for a hospital (which is still a fully functioning hospital in the active buildings, BTW).
RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT January 05, 2013 at 04:31 AM
The Quirkster is a funny fellow to watch. The whole situation seems to be a jealous spat. Mr. Potter (Whalen) must now be thinking - I should have just spread my money to a few more folks and all of this would have stayed on the down low. How Mr. Potter is even allowed to sniff any possible projects makes no sense to me, but with Marty as the Guv and KK in the BC driver's seat, it is business as usual baby. I actually thought Mr. Potter's defense would be he did it because he is passionate about the trans do dad legislation that the Quirkster was bringing up.
Buzz Beeler January 05, 2013 at 05:15 AM
The Thistle Landing PUD was reintroduce by Olszeswski, Sr. and passed.
Buzz Beeler January 05, 2013 at 05:20 AM
Steve you do not start a sentence with the number "2". It's Two. "LOL" is being listed as a old and tired slang word. At least act your age. I can't hear you laughing. This site does not have sound.
Buzz Beeler January 05, 2013 at 06:24 AM
No Frank, it's a revived PUD allowing a Thistle Landing!
Paul January 05, 2013 at 03:11 PM
RMI - perhaps you should read the hatch act. We know who you are. Dongarra - those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones. The group that supported you wants you to be quiet now. Yes - the Whalen thing is the tip of the iceberg. The group that supported Rebecca and Paul makes Whalen look like an angel. There are over a dozen people in Baltimore County that are waiting with loads of documents. Mr. Self Righteous Paul thinks that know one knows how he and his wife have operated. He'll find out different in time.
Steve January 05, 2013 at 05:30 PM
"No Frank, it's a revived PUD allowing a Thistle Landing!" It's another loser trying to fling monkey poo at the winner.
Buzz Beeler January 05, 2013 at 06:11 PM
Hey Steve, how can you make a conclusion based on some facts when you can't even follow the rules on how to write them if they were indeed the real facts which they are not.. You don't have a clue on what happened behind the scenes. The council won. Not the community, they were against it. It seems that a call was made by the developers and the PUD was reintroduced by Olszewski for another vote after it was passed. "We may have acted too quickly", Olszewski said but never followed up on he statement. http://articles.baltimoresun.com/2011-06-12/news/bs-ed-baltimore-county-council-20110611_1_pud-projects-pud-process-zoning-map I think you forget who the loser is in your comments. You never take the time to research and embarrass your counterpart Frank.
Kelly Blue January 05, 2013 at 06:35 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 06:57 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?
Kelly Blue January 05, 2013 at 07:13 PM
Paul D. Dongarra, President and Executive Chef of Dionysus’ Kitchen a local catering company based out of Columbia. Clients include Westinghouse, SONY Design Centers, Business Innovation Consortium, Prudential Securities, Borg Warner, Anderson Consulting, CW Amos contact us today: 410-744-4300 Hmmmm????? "based out of Columbia" yet a Catonsville phone number? Hmmmmmm? Did any of these "clients" donate to Ms. Hategarra?
Paul January 05, 2013 at 09:11 PM
Funny how Paul Dongarra is being quiet for once after commenting hundreds of times as 'open eyes' and himself and other names. Maybe Bryan Sears can look into the Freedom to Choose PAC expenditures and contributions (what is reported and what wasn't) and the 'Team Obama' slate that Paul lied about in the paper saying he knew nothing anything about. Paul & Rebecca will be exposed for who they really are... it's just a matter of when. By the way... didn't Rebecca's family make a ton of money selling off open space and developing in Howard County?? How ironic. Gotta love karma when it comes back around... and it will.
Paul Dongarra January 05, 2013 at 10:08 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!
Paul Dongarra January 06, 2013 at 12:26 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?
Buzz Beeler January 06, 2013 at 12:58 AM
I strongly suggest you button it up. Your using fake names and are going a little overboard. You have done this solely to attack one person. You have had you movement which was formed solely for this reason. You got your point across. If you want to continue than use your real name. Sometimes these things can come back to bite you and you will have to answer for you remarks and I think I know the person you will have to answer to. It's your call but I would ask the person if it is worth it.
Kelly Blue January 06, 2013 at 01:13 AM
You are more than capable to seek out the facts for yourself.
David Taylor January 06, 2013 at 01:21 AM
These smears/lies/etc and the fake/multiple accounts (looking at you Kelly/Jennifer/SallyG) ... it makes it pointless to use The Patch website for a discussion. I'm surprised that they let this go one, but here it is. By the way Kelly, people see this for what it is... random smears to distract from the ILLEGAL campaign contribution scandal. No matter how much you go one like that, the hand was already caught in the cookie jar, and you can't undo the GUILTY plea by attacking and thrashing and whining and crying this way. Buzz is right... give it a break, you look foolish
David Taylor January 06, 2013 at 01:28 AM
The best part... the more comments there are, the more traffic, the higher SEO rating... and the higher up we should see the phrase "campaign finance violations" when searching Whalen / Quirk... The more noise you make, the clearer people will hear.... so keep spamming away! Try it out https://www.google.com/search?num=50&hl=en&tbo=d&q=Whalen+baltimore+developer+&oq=Whalen+baltimore+developer
Kelly Blue January 06, 2013 at 01:49 AM
Please show where Quirk is guilty of anything? Was Whalen wrong, absolutely, he broke the law and he's paying a huge fine. Not unlike John Paterakis and Ed St. John. I would like to see the same outrage about Ehrlich. Didn't see or hear a word from any of the Quirk "haters" while that soap opera played out. And remember the "thugs from Philly", imported by the same Ehrlich staff. I guess he didn't know about that either. What price did he pay? He threw his friend under the bus. And someone please explain the Dongarra PAC? Where are you to answer those questions.
Buzz Beeler January 06, 2013 at 04:11 AM
Kelly I know what the facts are that is why I'm a suggesting to put a stop to this. I certain you do not want to be responsible for what you may do. This I know. Things s could get much worse. You need to talk to someone. I pulled a comment out of personal reasons. I could go well beyond that comet but I would rather see this name calling stop. Either use your real name and affiliation or I strongly urge you stop. Talk to the man and see what he suggest. I'm sure you know each other. The case is over the people have and will judge. You are simply adding fuel to the fire and not in the best interest of your client.
Buzz Beeler January 06, 2013 at 04:45 AM
Kelly Mr. Quirk is not guilty of any wrongdoing. We already know that. You are string up things you should stay out of. Talk to him and ask him. He'll know what you are talking about. It deals with politics pure and simple. You are letting politics take over here and finger pointing is not in the best interest of anyone at this point. The trial is over. Your are making it worse.
Steve January 06, 2013 at 05:21 AM
"You are letting politics take over here and finger pointing is not in the best interest of anyone at this point." Practice what you preach Beeker!
Steve January 06, 2013 at 05:37 AM
"Kelly I know what the facts are that is why I'm a suggesting to put a stop to this. I certain you do not want to be responsible for what you may do. This I know." It sounds like a threat.
djp952 January 07, 2013 at 05:00 AM
You do understand that website logon names don't actually constitute "fake names", right? You back-handedly accuse Libel without going as far as saying it outright, and while yes, in some cases posts on Internet Forums (which this is) can be used in Libel cases, the dangers of using real names on Internet Forums are far greater indeed. Have you considered that you may be conversing with a minor? While unlikely in this case, again, you of all people should be aware of the dangers. Your expectations of "real names" are antiquated at best and truly harmful at worst, but your outrage towards dissenting opinions and insatiable need to always have the last word prevent you from seeing this. What is so wrong with you, man?
Steve January 07, 2013 at 05:05 AM
No, but I did have Shrek and his Editor ride back and forth up my driveway during the Holidays yelling "Citizens Arrest! Citizens Arrest!" http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=rwEvysDpNm0
Buzz Beeler January 07, 2013 at 03:05 PM
djp you are wrong. They are fake names period. One has no idea who they are conversing with. I am writing a blog on this subject. Just look at the comments and you can understand the level of intelligence, honesty and integrity one encounters. If a person can't engage in adult discourse I will not respond. There is a way to stop this kind of engagement. At times I have lost my temper and responded in a way I'm not proud of. Yes I believe there are juveniles on this site using these fake names but I will no longer engage them.
Steve January 07, 2013 at 03:26 PM
If I was going to go to all the trouble to create a fake name I think I could have been more creative than "Steve" something like "Hugh Jarse" or "Anita Mandehug". But on the bright side at least I have never tried to pretend I'm a 16 year old girl poster. How'd that work out for ya?
djp952 January 09, 2013 at 04:48 AM
I will continue to disagree with you on this point, but I look forward to your blog post, and will make my case there. Don't worry, I won't be a jerk about it, I just think there is more to discuss. I'm extremely glad to hear that you are willing to try and temper your engagement of the non-productive discourse, I think it will benefit everyone, myself included. We all fly off the handle from time to time, I'm certainly as guilty as anyone, especially for the events/issues that are local to me (Elkridge). I enjoy checking out all the Patch sites for the greater Baltimore area and really like to read the comments, but many of these Baltimore County threads get out of control and off topic so quickly, I felt it was detracting from the intent behind them. Anyway, I applaud your decision, and I hope to engage in some meaningful and adult debate over the anonymity issue in the near future! PS - I don't know if you ever did traffic duty, but it really shouldn't be that difficult to figure out why I use "djp952", and have since 1995 (when you typically only had 6-8 characters for a logon name anywhere) ... how about if it's rewritten as DJP-952? It's just my old license plate from when I lived in New York. Nothing nefarious, it's become as synonymous to me as it appears anonymous to others :)
Buzz Beeler January 09, 2013 at 01:11 PM
djp well written response. I respect that. It's not the name that counts but in the manor in which that person chooses to represent that name. As I said your comment was a model for others to emulate.

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