Kamenetz slate transfers $90,000 to committee for retiring Dundalk councilman

A slate campaign account formed by Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz has directed the majority of its funds to the campaign committee of longtime County Councilman John Olszewski Sr. — even though the Dundalk Democrat is not running for office.

Campaign finance records released this week show the slate, A Better Baltimore County, transferred $90,000 to Olszewski's campaign committee in January, a move that gives Olszewski discretion to use the money to support candidates of his choosing in a variety of election races.

Olszewski announced last fall that he would not run for re-election this year. He campaigned for Kamenetz in the county executive's 2010 race.

Under Maryland law, Olszewski can use money in his campaign fund, including the $90,000 from the slate, to give up to $6,000 each to other political committees, said Jared DeMarinis, director of the campaign finance division for the state elections board. There is no limit on the total amount his campaign could donate. His latest report shows an overall cash balance of $192,790.66.

After he leaves office, Olszewski will have eight years to either use the money to run for another office or close the account, DeMarinis said.

After eight years, Olszewski could dispose of surplus campaign funds by donating them to charity or an institution of higher learning, or giving them to a political party's central or state committee, DeMarinis said.

Kamenetz, Olszewski and then-Councilman Vince Gardina set up the Better Baltimore County slate account four years ago. Olszewski and Gardina have said they are no longer involved. The Kamenetz campaign and Olszewski did not respond to requests for comment about the $90,000.

The Baltimore Sun reported last week that as of early January, the slate fund had received $100,000 from Kamenetz's campaign committee and $23,000 from seven donors connected to Caves Valley Partners, a Towson-based developer.

The latest campaign report shows that from Jan. 10 to May 8, the slate took in another $14,000 through seven contributions ranging from $500 to $4,000. Donors included companies with ties to Chesapeake Realty Partners, the Southern Land Co. and Caves Valley.

Chesapeake Realty Partners is the developer of residential, office and retail space in locations including Owings Mills, Perry Hall and Towson. Southern Land's properties include sites in Perry Hall, Towson and Reisterstown, as well as other areas of the county. Caves Valley is planning to develop the site of the Towson firehouse into a Royal Farms and is building the Towson Row mixed-use development. Like other developers, all three firms routinely seek county approval for projects.

Representatives of the companies did not return calls seeking comment.

The money remaining in the Better Baltimore County fund can be used for candidates who are members of the slate. Other than Kamenetz, only one person running for election this year is listed as a member — Jon Herbst, who is challenging County Councilwoman Vicki Almond, a fellow Democrat, in the June 24 primary. Both are vying to represent the 2nd District, which includes Owings Mills and Pikesville.

In the new campaign finance report, the slate committee detailed about $28,000 in expenditures, all in May. Among other expenses, it paid the Baltimore firm Fontaine & Company about $16,000 for consulting and phone services.

Under state law, the committee is not required to disclose which candidate those expenditures benefited. The committee reported a cash balance of about $2,265.

alisonk@baltsun.com

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