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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.

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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