Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Lank stays in District 6 race despite jail stay

Candidate said he didn’t know about child support payment problem until deputies called Jan. 25

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Richard J. Lank said Jan. 29 he has no plans to drop out of the District 6 Congressional race, despite contempt charges that landed him in jail last weekend.

‘‘Of course I’m concerned it could hurt the campaign, but I didn’t know there was a problem,” said Lank (D) of Middletown.

A Montgomery County judge on Monday dropped the contempt charge against Lank, after Lank’s campaign manager paid $2,100 in back child support.

Lank was arrested Jan. 25 for failing to appear in court in September for a child support case that dates back to 1999. At one point, court records showed he owed $5,525 in child support.

In July, Lank was found in contempt of court, and ordered to pay $2,100 or risk jail time.

Lt. Greg Henderson of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office contacted The Gazette and said an arrest warrant was issued for Lank, 55, in September, but deputies had been unable to find him. Henderson called The Gazette after reading a Jan. 17 story about Lank’s bid for Congress.

On Jan. 25, police left a message for Lank on his cell phone, giving him one hour to turn himself in, Henderson said. Lank immediately returned the call, and within the hour turned himself in without incident.

‘‘Despite the fact that someone turns himself in, I was processed like I robbed a bank,” Lank said. ‘‘It’s really a contempt charge. It’s not criminal. ... Most people have said that it is the toughest thing in the world to go in and face the music.”

Meanwhile, one of Lank’s Democratic challengers in the race, Robin L. Deibert of Fairplay, said Jan. 30 that in an e-mail exchange with Lank about election issues Tuesday, he mentioned that he had taken care of a personal matter.

Deibert said she responded by saying she was ‘‘glad to see it settled” and glad that he was staying in the race.

But Deibert believes the contempt charges will hurt Lank’s chances in the Feb. 12 primary. ‘‘I think it will hurt him, but we have Congressmen with worse records,” Deibert said.

Lank said much of his issue was settled on Jan. 29, when his campaign manager Rebecca Rush paid $2,100 in child support that Lank owed. He and his ex-wife agreed to the amount in September, but Lank paid it too late in the day Jan. 29, so he had to spend the weekend in the Montgomery County Detention Center.

Henderson said deputies have left messages on Lank’s cell phone before, but that never returned the calls. They also tried and failed to find him at his Middletown home several times, he said.

Lank insists he did not hide from deputies. ‘‘I’m not hard to find,” he said. ‘‘There’s nothing secretive. [Police] claim they’ve been to my door. I work out of my home. I would have been there.”

Lank said that as soon as he got the call Jan. 29, he responded. ‘‘I didn’t know there was a problem until it reached a critical matter and I got the call,” he said.

Lank said he has three daughters, two are adults and the third is a 17-year-old who lives with his ex-wife in Gaithersburg. Lank said he missed the September child custody hearing because he was preoccupied with issues involving his 17-year-old daughter.

Lank is executive vice president of Frederick-based Grey Goes Green Inc., a consulting firm for environmental and energy projects.