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March 18, 2009

For Franchot, cooled heels leads to hot head

From the Baltimore Sun's Gadi Dechter:

It was not a pleasant morning for Comptroller Peter Franchot – and he let it show.

First the tax collector was made to twiddle his thumbs for 30 minutes while Gov. Martin O’Malley was briefed on today’s Board of Public Works meeting at a “pre-meeting” Franchot boycotts on principle.

Then the comptroller then had to sit through another lengthy presentation by O’Malley officials celebrating their accomplishments with Maryland’s Minority Business Enterprise program.

So did a standing-room only crowd of bureaucrats, contractors and lobbyists who packed the governor’s sweltering reception room. About 40 of them had to stand for about an hour before the actual contract-approving business of the meeting began.

It was enough to make Franchot briefly abandon the lovey-dovey-with-the-govey act he’s been putting on since the Montgomery County Democrat – who once could be counted on to liven up the often-boring bimonthly meetings with jabs at O’Malley – found himself on the losing side of the slots referendum in November.

“We’re supposed to start at ten,” an exasperated Franchot said at 11:00 a.m., when the pre-meeting and presentation were finally concluded. “Maybe in the future we can start the meeting on time and telescope some of these presentations … It’s a little frustrating.”

Franchot noted that the board, which includes Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, had before it more than $5 billion in complicated state health contracts to vote up or down.

O’Malley seemed taken aback, but gamely apologized. For the next hour, the three-member board plodded through its seemingly endless agenda, which entailed a protracted discussion of gypsy moth eradication and the aforementioned health contracts (approved unanimously).

Franchot has said he avoids the semi-private “pre-meetings” out of concern that they violate the state’s Open Meetings Act. Kopp attends, as do staff to the board, treasurer and governor.

The meeting’s existence is now advertised in the board agenda, but to gain entrance one has to persuade a beefy security guard to unlock a door at the end of a long hallway on the second floor of the State House. (It’s usually not worth the effort, but reporters show up out of paranoia, and because it’s fun to get the guard to unlock the door.)

The thirty-minute presentation that so irked Franchot yesterday was led by Luwanda W. Jenkins, secretary of O’Malley’s Office of Minority Affairs. At the governor’s request, Jenkins detailed the state’s recent success in awarding in 30 percent more dollars in state contracts to minority-owned firms than it had in 2006.

In fiscal year 2008, certified “minority business enterprises” were awarded $1.3 billion in state contracts, up from $1 billion in fiscal year 2006.

-- Gadi Dechter

Posted by David Nitkin at 3:17 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Comments

"on principal"?

ugh.
-------------------------

Thank you, marm.

Made the fix.

Cheers, David.

Wait, they LOCKED an "OPEN MEETING?" Haha.... we're not called the Free State for nothing!

So let's see...
1) Holding meetings in secret.
2) Denying they have to be open.
3) Holding them by phone.
4) Holding them in a locked and secure second floor room.

With all the ethical scandals Maryland has had, you would think our elected (and one appointed) leaders would strive to make our government transparent. But evidently it is easier to keep us out then to let us in on what our tax dollars fund.

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About the bloggers
Annie Linskey covers state politics and government for The Baltimore Sun. Previously, as a City Hall reporter, she wrote about the corruption trial of Mayor Sheila Dixon and kept a close eye on city spending. Originally from Connecticut, Annie has also lived in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where she reported on war crimes tribunals and landmines. She lives in Canton.

John Fritze has covered politics and government at the local, state and federal levels for more than a decade and is now The Baltimore Sun’s Washington correspondent. He previously wrote about Congress for USA TODAY, where he led coverage of the health care overhaul debate and the 2010 election. A native of Albany, N.Y., he currently lives in Montgomery County.

Julie Scharper covers City Hall and Baltimore politics. A native of Baltimore County, she graduated from The Johns Hopkins University in 2001 and spent two years teaching in Honduras before joining The Baltimore Sun. She has followed the Amish community of Nickel Mines, Pa., in the year after a schoolhouse massacre, reported on courts and crime in Anne Arundel County, and chronicled the unique personalities and places of Baltimore City and its surrounding counties.
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