A grand jury has indicted the mayor of Baltimore on charges that she accepted illegal gifts during her time in office and as City Council president.
On Friday, Mayor Sheila Dixon was formally charged on 12 counts, the Associated Press reports. The charges against Sheila include four counts of perjury, two counts of theft over $500 and misconduct in office.
The state prosecutor’s office said that Sheila had been receiving holiday gift cards from several people for four years. They said the cards were supposed to go to needy families but Sheila used some for herself and even gave one to a staff member. According to the AP, Sheila bought clothes, video game systems and other goodies with $450 worth of those gift cards.
The indictment states that Sheila, 55, accepted money from a developer and used it to buy herself expensive gifts, including fur coats, and to go on lavish trips to New York, Chicago and Colorado.
Prosecutors also said Sheila briefly dated developer Ronald H. Lipscomb, who allegedly joined her on some of the trips. The relationship took place while Ronald’s company was working on several projects that received tax breaks from the city of Baltimore. He was also pegged as one of the people who hooked Sheila up with some of the gift cards she spent.
Despite the charges against her, Sheila insists that she’s innocent of any wrongdoing. "I am being unfairly accused," she said in a statement. "Time will prove that I have done nothing wrong, and I will be found innocent of these charges."
The charges come as the result of a state prosecutor’s corruption investigation, which started back in March 2006, when Sheila was the Baltimore City Council president. She became mayor in January 2007 to finish her predecessor’s term. She was elected to a full term later that year.
Although the investigation has overshadowed Sheila’s time in office, she’s still earned praise for her decisive management skills and the ability to remain levelheaded in a crisis. Sheila said she has no plans to step down from her office.
"I will not let these charges deter me from keeping Baltimore on the path that we have set, or from carrying forward the significant progress we have made thus far," she said.
– Sonya Eskridge
Photo courtesy of NewsOne.com.