Former Baltimore County official charged with stealing $140k from campaign accounts for councilmember, slate
A former Baltimore County official was charged Thursday with stealing more than $140,000 from two political campaign accounts — one for a former county councilmember and the other, a slate controlled by a former county executive — while he served as their treasurer.
William Christopher McCollum, 52, of Lutherville, a political insider who once headed the so-called Baltimore County Ag Center, was charged with felony theft, embezzlement and perjury in a 21-count criminal information filed by the Maryland State Prosecutor’s office.
Charging documents allege that McCollum stole $111,014.89 from the campaign account of former Councilmember Cathy Bevins (D) and $31,269.63 from a slate controlled by James T. Smith Jr. (D), former two-term Baltimore County executive, circuit court judge and one-time top aide to disgraced former Baltimore Mayor Catherine Pugh (D).
Prosecutors allege that McCollum stole the money from the Friends of Cathy Bevins account between April 23, 2015, and Jan. 31, 2020, and from Smith’s Baltimore County Victory Slate between May 27, 2015, to Dec. 14, 2018.
McCollum allegedly took money from Bevins’s account through direct payments to pay his personal American Express credit card bill, wrote checks from the campaign to purported vendors, but deposited them into his own bank account, and used campaign funds to travel with a “romantic partner” in Puerto Rico and for flights to Palm Beach, Fla. Those expenditures were made unknown to Bevins and not listed on the campaign reports filed with the State Board of Elections — documents signed by McCollum under penalty of perjury.
He allegedly engaged in similar schemes with the Victory Slate, depositing checks made out to the campaign account to his personal bank account and using money to pay his American Express card bills. Again, those expenditures were unknown to Smith or others involved with the slate, nor were they listed on campaign finance reports, the charges state.
“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,” State Prosecutor Charlton T. Howard III said in announcing the charges. “Our office strives to hold individuals in positions of public trust in the electoral process accountable if they violate that trust for personal gain.”
Deputy State Prosecutor Sarah R. David is overseeing the case.
Efforts to reach McCollum were unsuccessful, but one of his defense lawyers, David B. Irwin, did comment.
“He’s been fully cooperative with the investigation of the state prosecutor, and we’re hoping things work out for the best,” Irwin said.
McCollum, who at one time was personally close to Bevins, was a low-level county employee in 2010 when he was appointed director of the Ag Center — formally the Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park — by then-County Executive Jim Smith.
In 2020, he was moved out of that position and into the economic development department by County Executive John “Johnny O” Olszewski Jr. He resigned from county government in July 2021, after being at the center of an inspector general’s investigation of corrupt practices at the Ag Center, Baltimore Brew reported at the time.
The investigation into the Ag Center by Inspector General Kelly Madigan earned her the enmity of some council members, including Bevins, and Olszewski for her independent probes into waste, fraud and abuse in county government. At one point in July 2021, Olszewski proposed legislation creating a board of political appointees to oversee Madigan’s activities — a plan that was dropped after public backlash.
The Baltimore Brew first documented McCollum’s activities at the Ag Center and as a “bundler” of campaign contributions to candidates — including Smith, Bevins and Olszewski — while serving as treasurer for Bevins’s campaign and Smith’s slate.
Editor’s Note: This story was corrected to update William McCollum’s home address as reflected in court filings.