Curran will examine Mitchell's money woes

Attorney general's office to review how nephew ran ailing uncle's finances

By Ivan Penn
Sun Staff

June 4, 2002

Maryland's attorney general is examining how former Rep. Parren J. Mitchell's finances were managed by his nephew Michael B. Mitchell, who was responsible for his uncle's affairs at a
time when the civil rights leader fell more than $140,000 in debt.

Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.'s office contacted the office of Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy after reading an article in The Sun Friday about Parren Mitchell's
financial straits.

Jessamy's office deferred to the attorney general's office after Carolyn Henneman, an assistant attorney general in the criminal division, informed an assistant state's attorney that she
intended to review details that led to Parren Mitchell's problems, sources in both offices said yesterday.

"She indicated that she had some great interest in this case," said Elizabeth Ritter, the assistant state's attorney who received Henneman's call. "We had no problem with them looking
into the matter."

Sean Caine, a spokesman for the attorney general's office, would not comment on the nature of any inquiries, but he said, "we did contact her office to lend our support."

The issue concerns more than $140,000 in bills that have gone unpaid while Michael Mitchell, a former city councilman and state senator who owes hundreds of thousands of dollars in
back taxes and other debts, had power of attorney for his uncle.

Parren Mitchell's bills include his nursing expenses at Keswick Multi-Care Center in Roland Park, which total more than $100,000, as well as state and federal taxes of $25,000 and a $16,000
debt on a car Michael Mitchell purchased in his uncle's name without his knowledge.

Michael Mitchell also used his uncle's checking account to pay expenses related to a Pigtown bar he helps run called the Short Stop, sources said.

Parren Mitchell, who has suffered several strokes, gave power of attorney to his nephew to oversee his $60,000-a-year congressional pension and a trust that holds title to his West
Baltimore home.

But Parren Mitchell's bills at Keswick have not been paid since he was admitted more than three years ago, according to a board member at the nursing home. Officials at Keswick have
said the nursing home will not evict anyone for unpaid bills.

Michael Mitchell has refused requests by The Sun for an interview. Michael Mitchell's brother, Clarence M. Mitchell III, a former state senator, is expected to make a statement on the
Larry Young Show on WOLB radio today.

On Sunday, the Rev. Jamal Harrison Bryant, pastor of Empowerment Temple African Methodist Episcopal Church, raised $5,000 during his morning services to help pay Parren Mitchell's
nursing home bills. Later Sunday, Bryant said he raised another $4,300 during a fund-raising drive on his radio show on WEAA, a station at Parren Mitchell's alma mater, Morgan State

"We're just greatly disturbed," Bryant said. "I began calling my [church] officers. We wanted to do something."

Raymond V. Haysbert, a Baltimore businessman and former head of Parks Sausage, is forming a committee that will establish a fund to help resolve Parren Mitchell's financial problems.
Haysbert said he has been inundated with calls over the past few days from people pledging their support.

Haysbert said he also has received calls from Michael Mitchell and state Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV, assuring him that Parren Mitchell is not in any trouble. "Mike has told us that the
family has resources and does not need the community to raise money," he said.

But Haysbert and others said they intend to move forward with the fund. Supporters of a fund to help Parren Mitchell have questioned why the Mitchells haven't paid the bills if they
have the finances to do so.

"I think that it is unfortunate that the community has to come together ... to bail him out of this financial quagmire that his family put him in," said Kenneth L. Webster, a former state
delegate and longtime Baltimore political consultant.

Copyright © 2002, The Baltimore Sun