Ex-Baltimore County official pleads guilty to embezzling more than $140,000 from political committees

Published 5/25/2023 12:12 p.m. EDT, Updated 5/25/2023 7:55 p.m. EDT

6/16/22—Signs reading “Baltimore County Maryland” and “Baltimore County Council” hang on the wall inside the historic Baltimore County Courthouse in Towson, the center of county government.
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A former Baltimore County deputy director of economic development who’s a familiar figure in local Democratic Party politics on Thursday pleaded guilty to theft and perjury for embezzling more than $140,000 from two political committees for which he served as treasurer.

William “Chris” McCollum, 52, of Lutherville-Timonium, held that role for a campaign finance committee belonging to former Baltimore County Councilwoman Cathy Bevins as well as the Baltimore County Victory Slate, which can pool and transfer donations to select candidates.

Between 2015 and 2020, McCollum embezzled more than $111,000 from Friends of Cathy Bevins in ways including depositing money directly into his personal bank account, using campaign cash to pay his American Express bill, and writing checks to purported vendors. He stole more than $31,000 from the Baltimore County Victory Slate between 2015 and 2019.

McCollum entered the guilty pleas before Baltimore County Circuit Judge Robert Cahill Jr. and is set to appear back in court for sentencing on July 31.

“It is essential to the integrity of our elections that those who abuse positions of trust on political campaigns are held accountable,” Maryland State Prosecutor Charlton Howard III said in a statement. “I’m proud of our office’s hard work in uncovering this extensive fraud and bringing the individual responsible to justice.”

During the hearing, McCollum stood between his two attorneys and answered the judge’s questions with, “Yes, sir” and “No, sir.” He declined to comment.

One of McCollum’s attorneys, David Irwin, said his client has paid $125,000 in restitution. He borrowed that money from friends and family members.

“He’s paid restitution, he’s glad to be able to put this matter behind him,” said Andrew Graham, one of McCollum’s attorneys, outside the courtroom.

The Maryland Office of the State Prosecutor is recommending a sentence of one year in jail.

Bevins attended the court proceeding. She retired in 2022 after serving three terms on the Baltimore County Council.

In an interview, Bevins said she was friends with McCollum and trusted him. She said it was difficult to learn that he had been stealing money under her nose for years.

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“I’m apologetic to my donors who had confidence in me, who supported me,” Bevins said. “And I’m really disappointed in the friendship that I had with Chris McCollum.”

In 2010, McCollum started working for the Baltimore County Agricultural Center. He was named the acting director of economic development for Baltimore County in 2020.

McCollum resigned as deputy director of economic development for Baltimore County in 2021.

Baltimore County paid him unused sick leave for almost one year after he resigned so he could qualify for a higher pension.