CROOKED MARYLAND: State Prosecutor Nails William McCollum for Allegedly Ripping Off Over $100,000 from Baltimore Council Member Cathy Bevins campaign funds for romantic getaways to Puerto Rico and personal expenses.
TOWSON, MD. – The rolling hills of Baltimore County are populated by many of the families that migrated out of Baltimore City over the decades, taking with them the traditions of crabcakes, Polish sausage, Italian cuisine, and political treachery and criminal thievery of political funds and plunder of public treasuries.
Baltimore County spawned historic figures of Maryland corruption such as former Baltimore County Executive Dale Anderson and Spiro Ted Agnew – who rose from taking bribes from highway contractors while county executive, moving on to the job of Governor of Maryland in 1966 and becoming Vice President of the United States in 1969 where bags of cash were brought to his office in the Executive Office Building next to the White House.
There are more crooks from the pastures of Baltimore County politics, but it would not only take too long to list them but would beg the comparison with the insidious crooks of Prince George’s County and Baltimore City as well.
Maryland State Prosecutor Charlton T. Howard III announced on February 16, 2023, that a criminal information has been filed in the Circuit Court for Baltimore County, Maryland, charging William Christopher McCollum, the Treasurer for the campaign finance committees “Friends of Cathy Bevins” and the “Baltimore County Victory Slate,” with multiple counts of felony theft scheme, embezzlement, and perjury.
According to the charges filed, McCollum, who served as treasurer to both campaign finance committees, was allegedly systematically stealing funds raised by the committees without the knowledge of the candidates the committees sought to support.
The charges allege that from April 23, 2015, through and including January 31, 2020, McCollum embezzled $111,014.89 in funds from the campaign for his personal benefit.State Prosecutor Charleton Howard III
The “Friends of Cathy Bevins” is a campaign committee that raised money to support the election of former Baltimore County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins. The charges allege that from April 23, 2015, through and including January 31, 2020, McCollum embezzled $111,014.89 in funds from the campaign for his personal benefit.
The charges further allege that he stole the funds through direct payments to pay his personal American Express credit card bill and by taking checks made out to the “Friends of Cathy Bevins” from donors and depositing those checks directly in his personal account. He is also alleged to have transferred money from the campaign account to his personal bank account and written checks from the campaign account to purported vendors.
The charging document also alleges he used campaign funds to travel with a romantic partner while in Puerto Rico,Maryland State Prosecutor
Instead of issuing the checks to those companies, he deposited those checks into his own account. The charging document also alleges he used campaign funds to travel with a romantic partner while in Puerto Rico, and for flights to Palm Beach, Florida. He did not disclose these expenditures on the campaign reports that he filed with the State Board of Elections and signed under the penalties of perjury.
The charges further allege that McCollum was engaged in similar schemes in his role as treasurer to the “Baltimore County Victory Slate”, a campaign committee comprised of several candidates for public office in and around the Baltimore County area.
Like any other campaign committee, a slate is required to file campaign finance reports under the penalties of perjury. The charges allege that McCollum embezzled $31,269.63 from the “Baltimore County Victory Slate” from May 27, 2015, through and including December 14, 2018.
The charges also allege that he engaged in similar theft schemes by depositing checks made out to the “Baltimore County Victory Slate” into his personal bank account and using the funds to pay his American Express credit card bills.
According to the charging document, McCollum did not disclose these expenses on the required campaign finance reports filed with the State Board of Elections and signed under the penalties of perjury.
“Treasurers of campaign finance committees have an important role in ensuring funds raised to support a political candidate or candidates are used to benefit the purpose of the campaign,” said State Prosecutor Howard. “Our Office strives to hold individuals in positions of public trust in the electoral process accountable if they violate that trust for personal gain.”
McCollum’s long employment with Baltimore County ended in 2022 when the Olszewski Administration terminated his employment, but his annual salary continued, as documented in the Baltimore Brew.
McCollum provided this response to the Baltimore Brew:
UPDATE: Asked to comment, McCollum gave the following statement tonight: “You guys have gotten so much demonstratively wrong in the stories about me that I will pass. Thank you for asking.“
The Office of the Inspector General of Baltimore County began an investigation into the activities of the Ag Center and of McCollum, issuing a report in 2021.
“As a result of the investigation, the Office has identified $38,594.33 in purchase card transactions related to the Ag Center that either violate the Policy and Procedures of the Program or have resulted in unaccounted for property. The majority of the violations are attributed to Cardholder A. The remaining violations are associated with Cardholder B. Both of these cardholders had taken the mandatory purchase card training and had signed the Delegation of Authority for Procurement Card Purchases form upon receiving their purchase cards. Thus, both should have known that splitting purchases and buying restricted items under the Program were prohibited. As for the missing items, their whereabouts at the time of this report are still unknown.
In an effort to prevent the County from expending unnecessary resources going forward, the Office recommends that an inventory of all equipment and tools at the Ag Center be conducted so that the County can have a full accounting of those items.”
Excessive Purchases of Equipment that Went Missing – Wow, Batman, Wonder Where It Went?
“During the Office’s review of the purchase card documents for the Ag Center, it was noted that certain types of equipment, such as snow blowers, string trimmers, leaf blowers, and specific power tools, were purchased in quantities that could be deemed excessive for the time period in question. As an example, six string trimmers totaling $1,608.55 were purchased between July 2017 and July 2019. Because of the peculiarity of these transactions, the Office provided the Ag Center’s current Farm Manager a list of approximately 75 items selected from the purchase card receipts to see if they could be located at the Ag Center. The list consisted of a variety of items, with an emphasis on small engine equipment and power tools. Using the list, the Farm Manager had her staff conduct an inspection of the Ag Center property to see if the items could be located.
Subsequently, the Office conducted an on-site inspection of the Ag Center with the Farm Manager to further verify the findings. Based on these inspections, it was determined that 10 of the items on the list could not be located at the Ag Center. Therefore, these items were listed on the Table as missing property.”
FOX 45 Reported McCollum was Cardholder A as listed in the IG Report
The Olszewski administration’s response to the IG report indicated McCollum, referred to as “Cardholder A,” was “no longer an employee of the Baltimore County Department of Recreation and Parks.” Media reports at the time indicated McCollum had resigned from his position.
But Thursday, a full year removed from the IG report, McCollum is still on the Baltimore County payroll, being paid for his earned sick leave, a county spokeswoman confirmed to FOX45 News.
Cathy Bevins Bowed Out
FROM BALTIMORE BREW:
Last month, the Democratic incumbent announced she would not run for a fourth term.
She said publicity over her residency – and her very public attack on Madigan following an IG report detailing $30,000 in unauthorized Ag Center purchases by Bevin’s campaign treasurer, William “Chris” McCollum – did not play a role in her decision.
The 63-year-old said she is having health challenges and was also tired of being “attacked” on social media.
According to her 2022 finance report, she has $83,978 left in campaign funds, much of it raised in large ($2,000-plus) contributions from county developers, contractors and other business interests.
While McCollum was forced to resign from his county post last June, he remains the treasurer of Friends of Cathy Bevins and the Baltimore County Victory Slate, the financing vehicle of former County Executive Jim Smith that helped bankroll both Bevins’ and Johnny Olszewski’s prior campaigns.