Another twist in Arundel Mills slots drama: Recusal expected
Anne Arundel County Council member C. Edward Middlebrooks (R-Severn) said Wednesday that he will recuse himself from voting on zoning legislation needed to build a proposed slots casino at Arundel Mills mall.
His decision, announced just days before an anticipated vote Monday night, adds to the high-stakes drama surrounding the largest of five slots sites planned in Maryland.
Four votes are needed from the seven-member council to pass a zoning bill. Besides legislation that would allow slots at the mall, the council is also scheduled to take up an alternative bill that would permit slots at several other locations, inluding Laurel Park racetrack -- but not the mall.
Middlebrooks, who has not announced his position on either bill, said in an interview that he had discussed a potential conflict of interest with the county ethics commission and decided "to disqualify myself." He declined to elaborate on the potential conflict, saying: "I don't want anything to taint the process."
Council members and other observers offered different takes on the impact of Middlebrook's abstension. The prospect of slots at the mall has left the council deeply divided for months, even as a state commission appears poised to give its blessing to the 4,750-machine casino in a separate meeting that is also scheduled Monday.
"With this council, I don't think we'll know what happens until the roll call Monday night," said Council member Ronald C. Dillon Jr. (R-Pasadena).
The council was already slated to be one member short Monday. Joshua J. Cohen (D), a slots opponent, will be sworn in as the new mayor of Annapolis eariler in the day.
An anti-slots group is also seeking to have Dillon recuse himself, arguing that his family's company, Dillon Bus Service, would benefit from the casino business.
Dillon said ethics officials have cleared him to participate in the deliberations after reading a statement Monday night. "I'm good to go," he said.
The mall proposal, put forward by Baltimore-based Cordish Cos., is the only qualified bid for the Anne Arundel license pending before the state commission. If the zoning bill fails, it is likely that the commission would reopen bidding for the license.
December 2, 2009; 6:46 PM ET
Categories: John Wagner , Slots
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