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.
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.”
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 email@example.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 firstname.lastname@example.org.