The 90-day General Assembly session in Annapolis is over, but a payment to a lobbyist is still a topic of debate.

Frederick County Councilman Kirby Delauter (R) took issue recently with a $10,750 payment the county made to the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce to support their lobbying efforts.

During the council members’ comments portion of Tuesday’s County Council meeting, Delauter said he sent an email early on in the General Assembly session asking how much money the county had spent over the past 12 months for a consulting firm for the proposed downtown hotel and conference center.

The response was that no payment turned up in a search of county records.

About two months after Delauter’s request, Peter Samuel, a vocal critic of state funding for the downtown hotel and conference center project, wrote a blog post about the county’s payment this year, following his own information request.

What gives?

Delauter’s request was logged as seeking payments made specifically to Greenwill Consulting Group.

When a county staffer ran “Greenwill” through records, no payment turned up.

But the county is only one of multiple groups that contribute a payment to Greenwill for lobbying efforts in Annapolis.

The Annapolis-based firm is under contract with the Chamber of Commerce, which is where the county’s $10,750 check was sent in November.

Samuel, who has previously written about lobbying efforts on behalf of the project, was familiar with the arrangement.

Delauter sought clarification on the payments late last month and the earlier response late last month.

In response, Heidi Keeney, an administrative analyst in the county executive’s office, gave a list of all lobbying expenses that could be located from 2011 to the present:

  • A check for $25,000 was issued to PPP Associates LLC on Aug. 4, 2011, for privatization.
  • A check for $25,000 was issued to the Frederick Area Committee for Transportation (FACT) with a memorandum of understanding dated Oct. 23, 2013. FACT forwarded payment of $25,000 to Greenwill.
  • $101,000 total was issued to Funk & Bolton for the Clean Chesapeake Coalition/TDML Coalition during the time frame from Nov. 16, 2012, to Nov. 21, 2014.
  • The Rural County Coalition received a total of $15,000 during the time frame of Dec. 28, 2011, and Nov. 14, 2013 (the first invoice was paid to the Allegany County Commissioners, formally the Rural County Alliance). Bruce Bereano was the lobbyist for the Rural County Coalition.
  • The Office of Economic Development has issued the Chamber of Commerce $24,750 total between the 2015 and 2017 fiscal years for Greenwill. The payments began during the term of the prior administration, and Greenwill has lobbied for Frederick County interests including the conference center and transportation issues such as completion of the multimodal I-270 study.

Keeney added that the payments made by Gardner were not subject to review by the County Council.

“Payments toward various obligations of the County are routinely approved by administration on a regular basis. The Council has no role in these day to day payment activities,” Keeney wrote.

The county charter specifies that the council must be informed when the county executive wants to approve a contract, lease or other obligation in excess of $20,000 that would obligate the county to spend more than that amount in multiple fiscal years.

Delauter remained upset about the appropriation at Tuesday’s meeting.

“When I asked the question on Feb. 20, ‘Did we do that?’ The answer that I got was ‘No, we did not’ and basically it’s none of your business. But we did. So I was lied to. Directly lied to,” he said. “Because we did give the chamber of commerce that money and the chamber of commerce gave that money that consulting firm for that purpose.”

Separately, the issue also played out in a series of emails over the weekend.

Delauter shared Keeney’s email with Samuel, and copied a number of others including members of the County Council, General Assembly delegation and reporters. But the message that was circulated edited Keeney’s response to remove the list of expenditures, only including her statement about the county executive’s authority to make the payments.

In forwarding the email, Delauter wrote: “I was told it was basically ‘none of my business’ and the Executive signs many checks on a day to day basis without council oversight. Once again, Jan Gardner has snookered you and many others for your votes under her guise of ‘Open and Transparent Government where everyone can be part of the process.’ It’s open and transparent only for what she wants you to see.”

That’s when Gardner jumped into the thread, sharing Keeney’s full email.

“The people copied on this email exchange can decide who is sharing accurate, complete, and truthful information,” Gardner wrote.

In response to Delauter’s comments at Tuesday’s meeting, she said that county staff at all times gave truthful and factual answers to the councilman’s questions and that sharing an edited email was fraudulent and Delauter “accuses others of doing what he himself is doing.”

Marching on

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-8th, is inviting residents to join him for upcoming marches in Washington.

After serving as one of the key speakers at the Tax March last weekend, Raskin is organizing groups to attend the March for Science this Saturday and the People’s Climate March a week later, on April 29.

“With Donald Trump as President, we have the whole world in our hands. Get out your marching shoes!” Raskin wrote to supporters this week.

More information is online at https://jamieraskin.com.

A People’s Climate Sister March is planned in the city on Saturday. The event is being organized by candidate for the city Board of Aldermen, Jeannette Bartelt.

For more information, contact jmbartelt@gmail.com or 301-682-7877.

Are you planning to attend the climate march in Washington — as a supporter or protester? I’d like to hear from you. Email me at dgaines@newspost.com.

Follow Danielle E. Gaines on Twitter: @danielleegaines.

Danielle E. Gaines covers politics and government in Frederick County, splitting her time between Winchester Hall and The State House. Having grown up in Illinois, she lived in New York and California before settling in Maryland.

(20) comments

jerseygrl42

This one does NOT pass the smell test; a lot of taxpayer money disguised by the CE to support a giveaway to two wealthy families ...as for raskin, marching is about all he excels at ....

hayduke2

Jeersey - why no comments about the previous commissioners spending $150,000+ for dubious projects/lobbying... Hmmmm.....

Jane and Ed

Congratulations once again to Peter Samuel for investigative journalism which Frederick News Post picked up on here.
About Kirby Delaughter. Yes, if he paid a lobbyist to get state funds for a developer then he is a hypocrite. Even then, was it done without transparency? If it was, that was wrong! But, seriously!
Two wrongs don't make a right. Does this newspaper ever consider writing news stories without going down to this name calling petty level? Who gives a darn about the political ugliness?
What about us? What about the Frederick County taxpayers who pay for Kirby or Jan to pay lobbyists against our best interests?
The real story is about the "secretive" use of County taxpayer funds for lobbying, not about political snarkiness or which politician spent more.

DickD

Not often do I share Delauter's concerns, this time I do.

hayduke2

So let me get this straight, Kirby complains about a $10,750 payment to a lobbying group while approving over $150,000 while he was a commissioner. Then he forwards an dishonest, edited email to try to cast dispersion on the County Executive. He truly is not about honesty and appears to be living in an alternative reality.

b1sellers

And he wants to be your next County Executive.

jthompson

Another sure sign that the world is right and I am wrong. The Jan Gardner I new and served with would NEVER spend one cent of taxpayer money to lobby state officials to divert scarce public resources away from schools and roads toward a conference center.

hayduke2

Where would the county get a bigger bang for the buck? Adding
$10,750 toward school construction or lobbying for other issues ( agree or disagree with the conference center but am trying to look at this in practical ways )

jthompson

Leaving aside my apparently outdated belief that spending one cent of taxpayer money on lobbyists is a penny too much, $16 million is the number to look at. That is the amount of state funds the successful efforts of the lobbyists diverted away from other pressing needs to the conference center. Having used public funds to help accomplish the diversion, Jan can no longer lament the lack of state money for schools, roads, etc.

hayduke2

Thanks for the clarification....

FrederickFan

The details I have read, and continue to read in all of the County paperwork suggests that CE Gardner is still planning on contributing County money to a PUBLIC downtown parking garage desperately needed on the East side of Frederick City! Just like Frederick County HAS ALWAYS contributed to downtown Frederick City parking garages. The added tax revenue that will come to the County from boosting businesses on the East side of Frederick City will more than pay for whatever this investment turns out to be. Business taxes are the only thing that will ever lower tax pressure on residential tax payers like you and me. Residential property taxes, whatever they may be, NEVER pay for the costs of providing services to residents. We must have corresponding business development.

I realize calm, rational analysis of public investment isn't as much fun as ideological ranting without a bit of actual information. But my opinion is that the County investment in this project appears to be a good decision from the standpoint of the County and its taxpayers.

I don't think you are "wrong." You just don't believe in public investment in capital projects. Fair enough. I don't believe public funds should ever be wasted on residential development, because doing so just degrades the tax balance. On that I am confident we agree.

nbouqu1

show me the math

FrederickFan

So when Delauter was a County Commissioner he approved over $165,000 in payments for Lobbying. But when CE Gardner continues a $10,750 payment to the Chamber of Commerce that Delauter himself approved before his time on the prior Board ended, then somehow she is wrong? Delauter the worst kind of pathetic, bellyaching hypocrite.

And then to make it even worse, after he gets an accurate answer to the question he asked, he tries attempts to divert attention away from his own hypocrisy, by committing fraud when he edited out the $165,000 of his Lobbying payments Keeny pointed out in her email.

This is just the latest event in a continuous stream of repulsive and disgusting behavior from Kirby Delauter.

DickD

Kirby is far from perfect, but he is not alone.

b1sellers

"This is just the latest event in a continuous stream of repulsive and disgusting behavior from Kirby Delauter. " I agree- but he keeps getting votes ALL because of that almighty R behind his name. Never mind he votes to line his and his friends pockets and not for the betterment of all of the county. He should not have won the last election - Mark Long was far superior to him but alas, he was a democrat.

public-redux

Kirby should release his email so we can see if his request is as broad as he claims or if he asked specifically about payments to Greenwill. I'm guessing county staff answered the question he asked rather the one he should have asked. He can easily settle the matter by releasing his email.

DickD

You have a point, public, but the mere fact that his request was not fully answered bothers me. It bothers me because I am sure they knew the reason for Delauter's request and chose to focus on an inaccurate statement by Delauter - if his e-mail was not that broad. I really feel we are all being deceived and tax payer money being spent for the welfare of the Plamondons and Randalls.

jerseygrl42

your comment is spot-on!

hayduke2

But Dick, if you interpret this article his response was answered. He just asked the wrong question. Again, I think you need to separate this from the emotional aspect of the conference center. I don't think anyone was deceived.

public-redux

Here's the thing, Dick: Does Kirby really want county staff to have the leeway to ignore and/or interpret the questions asked by Councilmembers? Or does he want them to answer the questions actually asked? That stick has two ends. If I were on the council, I would not want to cede that prerogative to county staff. I would want to keep it for myself.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Engage ideas. This forum is for the exchange of ideas, insights and experiences, not personal attacks. Ad hominen criticisms are not allowed. Focus on ideas instead.
TURN OFF CAPS LOCK.
Don't threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
No trolls. Off-topic comments and comments that bait others are not allowed.
No spamming. This is not the place to sell miracle cures.
Say it once. No repeat or repetitive posts, please.
Help us. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.