Whalen: Illegal Contributions 'My Responsibility'

Catonsville Developer Steve Whalen says he will plead guilty to five campaign finance charged filed today and expects to pay $58,000 in fines. "I alone am responsible."

UPDATED (1:35 p.m.)—Catonsville Developer Steve Whalen said he will plead guilty to five counts of violating campaign finance laws related to donations made to Councilman Tom Quirk.

"The bottom line is it's my responsibility," Whalen said in a candid phone interview. "I did it, I alone am responsible. It was one of the stranger moments in my 32 year career and I regret it."

State Prosecutor Emmet Davitt announced the five charges in a statement Thursday.

Whalen said he has signed a plea agreement in which he will admit guilt in court. He said he expects no jail time and will pay fines totaling $53,000 for the five violations plus another $5,000 in fines related to other civil citations he said he was issued related to the case.

The developer said he does not expect jail time or prohibitions on future campaign donations or political involvement.

The plea is subject to acceptance by a judge. Whalen said a court date has not been scheduled but he expects a hearing "in a couple of weeks."

Davitt, in a statement, said Whalen paid three people $2,500 each in return for each of them writing personal checks to Quirks campaign.

Whalen is also charged with two counts of exceeding limits in donations to Quirk and for violating the $10,000 limit in donations to all campaigns in a four-year election cycle.

According to charging documents released by the state prosecutor's office, Whalen asked Michele Mandel to donate $2,500 to Quirk some time between Aug. 27 and Sept. 1 2011. Whalen then allegedly paid Mandel in cash for the donation.

Opponents of Quirk have long considered the contribution suspicious because it came from Mandel, who is a personal trainer for whom Whalen was a client.

During that same time, Whalen is accused of asking Diane Underwood and Darryl Hitt to make $2,500 donations.

Underwood is a personal friend of Whalen and Hitt works as a construction manager for Whalen Properties, according to the developer.

"They were not sophisticated politically and I don't think they understood the implications," Whalen said. "The bottom line is they made the donations because I asked them to."

In each case, the state prosecutor alleges that the donations were ultimately made with cash provided by Whalen.

If found guilty, Whalen could be sentenced to up to a year in jail and or a $1,000 fine for each count.

The three donations totaling $7,500 also put Whalen over the state limit on donations made to any one candidate during a four-year election cycle.

The donations also put Whalen over the state's $10,000 limit for all donations in the same cycle. In March 2012, Whalen contributed $4,000 to Democratic County Executive Kevin Kamenetz's campaign and $250 to the campaign of David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, according to the charging documents released by the state prosecutor.

If convicted, Whalen could be sentenced to up to one year in jail and or a $25,000 fine for each count.

Marks said he plans to return the donation to Whalen this weekend.

"I was never contacted by the state prosecutor," Marks said. "The donation was [legal] when it was made but given the circumstances it's appropriate to return it even though there's no obligation to do so."

Representatives of Kamenetz's campaign could not immediately be reached for comment.

Whalen is the owner of Whalen properties, and is seeking to build a medical center on Kenwood Avenue in Catonsville. Whalen has also expressed interest in developing a portion of the Spring Grove Hospital Center as part of his proposed Catonsville Promenade project.

on the fate of the 190-acre property divided up the property for continued use as a state hospital as well as for the university and some open space and retail uses.

Quirk, a Catonsville Democrat, is not charged. The councilman, in an emailed statement, said he cooperated with the investigation and returned the contributions to Whalen.

"Our campaign disclosure laws exist to protect the public’s right to know the true identity of donors and to enforce state limits on contributions," Quirk said in the emailed statement. "I am deeply disappointed that Mr. Whalen violated his disclosure obligations both to the public and to our campaign.

"I remain committed to the highest level of integrity in public office and thank the Office of the State Prosecutor for their aggressive investigation. I do not intend to let this incident distract me from continuing the work I was proudly elected to do," Quirk said in the statement."

Whalen, in the interview, said the donations made to Quirk did not involve a quid pro quo for development decisions.

"There was no corruption," Whalen said. "The state prosecutor looked for that and obviously did not charge me with that."

Whalen expressed regret for embarrassing Quirk.

"I've embarrassed Tom Quirk and I regret that," Whalen said.

Stay with Patch for updates to this story.

RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT December 21, 2012 at 02:25 AM
So Mr. Potter finally gets his. No jail time? And of course, Mr. Quirk is involved. What a surprise! Looks like both Mr. Whalen's and Mr. Quirk's chickens are coming home to roost! Two more public figures with no morals.
FIFA December 21, 2012 at 10:55 AM
Appears to be a stupid decision. Mr. Whalen could have easily sent the money himself from an LLC or a partnership he owned and avoided all the legal trouble.
jack friese December 21, 2012 at 04:21 PM
If you believe this is all the facts on these illegal contributions, maybe Jim Smith, the retired County Executive could join forces with Whalen, Quirk, and Kamenetz, Malone, DeBoy and Kasemeyer and "sell" the Bay Bridge to some unsuspecting victim(s). The illegal contributions to Quirk, Kamenetz, Smith (and I am sure) others is just the tip of the iceberg. Let's see the indictment of Whalen who has enough money to make this crime disappear. He (and all his paper and phony companies) should be banned from doing any business with the State for three years as his punishment for these crimes. Then apply the maximum, monetary fine not minimum fines for his criminal behavior. Hold him accountable for this behavior. Voters were told about these shenanigans by Whalen during the 2010 campaign in district 12 by the Republican candidates. Dirty money prevailed and no Republican can win in this corrupt environment. I wonder really how much money was stuck in the pockets of Kasemayer, Malone and DeBoy (and others) for their participation in this rip off of Maryland citizens? This is not a Republican or Democratic issue, it is a moral issue and no one should be allowed to tamper with our political system because they have millions of dollars to throw around.
Steve December 21, 2012 at 04:26 PM
Who benefitted from the Robocalls and why isn't he in jail?
Sanchez December 21, 2012 at 04:31 PM
He was only buying his permits for the Promenade as he bought his permits for most of his developments. How else can he buy State property when no other developer will have the same opportunity to buy 30 acres of Spring Grove property? How do you think he is counting on buying property form the State with a sweetheart deal and at the same time SELL property TO the State in a sweetheart deal for a new courthouse? Win Win for Whalen and LOSE LOSE for the taxpayers.
RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT December 21, 2012 at 07:34 PM
Greatest comment ever by Mr. Potter (Whalen). "There was no corruption." So, you had other folks make contributions to the Quirkster and then you paid them back and masterminded the entire situation but there was no corruption? I feel much better about this now. The Quirkster had no idea about this. I am sure that complete strangers readily give $2,500 for a relatvely minor position in Baltimore County Government. They only want good government.
SG from PH December 21, 2012 at 08:15 PM
Ah! Living in Maryland among some of the best politicians money can buy. Truly what I want my children and grand children to see as leadership models... NOT!!! If we get caught we can just turn in the money and it is OK! Do those folks who burgularize homes get the same option? .... NO! So why do we have double standards? Politicians and contributors should stand to the same meter of justice as the rest of us. It makes me sick!
OpenEyes December 21, 2012 at 09:35 PM
I would like to thank Paul and Rebecca Dongarra for keeping their promise to watch Councilperson Quirk, Steve Whalen and staying involved in land use issues in their community. The result of this investigation is a direct result of their formal complaint filed with the office of the Special Prosecutor last February.
OpenEyes December 21, 2012 at 10:34 PM
Jack, I agree with you that this is not a partisan issue. I would point out that it was the campaign of Rebecca Dongarra, a Democrat, who raised this issue of developers' financing candidates impedes their ability to make unbiased land use decisions. Responsible land use was one of her main platform issues. No doubt it was these repeated charges that led Whalen to feel that he needed to hide his donations to Quirk. All of the Republican candidates of 2010 have been silent and missing in action so to speak.
SG from PH December 22, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Every day politics in the peoples democratic gulag.
Arbutus Town Crier December 22, 2012 at 05:24 PM
With the tip of the iceberg chipped away a bigger one arises, What is next? “A government afraid of its citizens is a Democracy. Citizens afraid of government is tyranny!” Thomas Jefferson We have been warned!
FIFA December 22, 2012 at 06:41 PM
So who did she get her money from? People who wanted her to represent their position I presume. If the anti-development folks can give money, can't the pro-development folks do the same. Your position appears hypocritical. The other question; is the developer supporting someone already representing their views, or is the developer supporting someone to get them to change their views?
OpenEyes December 22, 2012 at 07:45 PM
FIFA, When Rebecca Dongarra went down to Annapolis to testify against HB1161, a bill sponsored for Whalen's benefit, she was in good company. 1000 Friends of MD and the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance were by her side. Unfortunately, esteemed groups such of these are non-profit and cannot contribute of assist responsible land use candidates. Outside the meeting hall, Mr. Whalen tried to get her to take a donation at that time. She refused. It's called integrity. The difference is that the development lobby has tons of money compared to the everyday citizen. Time and time again the candidates who take their money, like Quirk, do the bidding of these contributors. Just look at issue 1-008 in district one's comprehensive re-zoning process. Quirk upzoned 30 acres for a $4000 donor represented by Gildea, Schmidt, and Smith who were essential to getting him elected.
Arbutus Town Crier December 22, 2012 at 08:07 PM
FIFA good question? But you fail in your comment "she" ? You need to be clear on your statement first assuming who she is? She have a name? You statement to me "Your position appears hypocritical".? Thomas Jefferson, hypocritical? Why do the developers go to the government to build what they want? Money? Why should we accept this situation? Did the citizens petition the local government to build what the people need instead of what the developers want? GREED is not good, Let the developers go to the town hall or community associations alone without the Government official standing by them, Let them separate from the government and go to the the local citizens and get there backing first. Am I missing the point of "We the People"?
FIFA December 22, 2012 at 08:22 PM
I thought it was clear that she was Rebecca as referred to by OpenEyes. She was supported by two organizations, per OpenEyes that have their agenda. Developers have a different agenda. Your comments are a condemnation of our political process. Picking on developers seems hypocritical to me. The two non-profit organizations, just like many others, can establish PACs to forward their political agenda or get people to donate directly. At the national level a conservative led SCOTUS has ruled that corporations are people too and can give unlimited amounts as long as they are not affiliated with campaigns. Wink Wink. Mr. Whalen could have avoided this entire affair but he was stupid. If he funneled his contributions through LLCs or partnerships he owned their would never have been charges. OpenEyes condemns developers for contributing money to support candidates that support their cause. Is that any different that the Chamber of Commerce or the NRA supporting candidates that support their cause? Of course not, it is exactly the same. The system sucks, but picking out one part of it seems hypocritical to me.
CHRIS December 22, 2012 at 08:40 PM
Is anyone watching Councilman John Olszewski, Sr? http://www.facebook.com/SaveTheNorthPointGovernmentCenter
Chillin December 23, 2012 at 04:38 AM
It looks like Mr. Dongarra’s hunch was correct after all. Along with Mr. Whalen, Councilman Quirk and his campaign treasurer surely must also take some responsibility in this ‘oversight’. When these individuals dropped $2,500 toward his campaign he and his treasurer should have suspected something was amiss and asked the donor what their motive was. Yes, you do look a gift horse in the mouth when you are running for office, so that it doesn’t come back to bite you in the ass. Mr. Whalen, you should have just come out with the truth at the onset of the investigation so that so much of my tax money wasn’t wasted on the investigation. Mr. Whalen, this type of behavior is why citizens are so skeptical about your business dealings. Congratulations to Mr. Dongarra for keeping the fire lit and working so diligently to expose the truth.
kevin December 23, 2012 at 04:59 AM
Love Mr. Kamenantez isn't giving back money from Whalen ,because he didn't do anything illegal. What a Great representative.Kevin if you possess a stolen car that was retitled and you bought off a legal car dealer it is taken away from you.Why it was illegal merchandise. The money in your fund is illegal give it back or do you just not care ? $4,000 is worth you selling any integrity people might think you have? Love you announced it on a day when it won't get news coverage. do you channel Dale anderson or Spiro Agnew when you look into mirror?
RARE MARYLAND INDEPENDENT December 23, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Interesting how both the Quirkster and KK handled this. KK knows that he has destroyed any primary opposition in the future. He sent the message loud and clear in the last primary - "by any means necessary" to secure election. So KK is keeping the money. The Quirkster on the other hand knows he is on shaky ground with a possible primary challenge coming. His signature legislation of transgenderism - which even he does not follow in his business does not speak well of him. Add to that fact in his one opportunity with a large public group - Catonsville's home football playoff game, he like most politicians thought the moment was about him. Add the Mr. Potter situation in to the mix and Quirk knows he has problems. What I do find interesting - are any public servants coming out and questioning - If Mr. Potter (Whelan) is simply disregarding rules that he knows about and is being upfront about not following the rules, what building and devolpment codes are he and his crew simply ignoring because he believes these rules don't apply to him. Isn't this a public safety issue?
Chillin December 24, 2012 at 12:27 AM
Mr. Whalen is a frequent commenter to the Patch articles that feature his projects, often defending his position and usually writing in great detail. He seems to be pretty quite this time.
Chillin December 30, 2012 at 04:16 AM
Hey, why are Whalen's friends not being charged as well? Isn't there some law about conspiring and participating in such illegal activities that would land them all in court. Shame on Mr. Whalen for taking advantage of his friends if they were in fact too stupid to know any better as he implies they are "politically unsophisticated".
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