Your May 5 report (“Clock ticking on future funding for downtown hotel”) that Mayor Michael O’Connor has not gotten to sit down with Gov. Larry Hogan to put the case for state funding of the downtown hotel project. The case against state funding has been put to the governor by a number of people. I for one have spoken twice with Gov. Hogan against taxpayer money for the hotel and followed up with written submissions and documentation via staff. This material has been copied to several departmental heads. The Office of Legislative Audits has received a formal complaint about the project, arguing that it deserves investigation of unethical and possible criminal activity associated with the city’s procurement of a developer.
So state officials are well aware of major irregularities in the city procurement. Frederick’s previous mayor, Randy McClement, chose as chairman of the city’s hotel advisory committee Mark Gaver, subsequently revealed as a major con man, convicted in U.S. District Court in Baltimore of $50 million in fraud, and now serving a 17-year term in jail. Convict Gaver set the pattern followed throughout the term of the McClement mayoralty for this city-controlled body, doing city business, operating behind closed doors without public notice or agenda or recorded votes. This was in flagrant violation of the State Open Meetings Act and the city’s own code requirement for competitive procurement. Documented with emails and consultant invoice time sheets are the fact that behind closed doors the city hotel advisory committee (1) dumped the competition-friendly, publicly announced and consultant-recommended two-stage procurement (site to be chosen first, open bidding by developers second) in favor of a single-stage bring-your-site procurement that limited competition to two (2) the single-stage procurement was a suggestion of the winning developer (3) city-funded consultants billed thousands of dollars helping one of the two supposed competitors (the winner) contrary to the terms of their engagement (4) the official RFP was a piece of theater since the winning proposal was received before the RFP was issued, and (5) the scoring of the two proposals was grossly biased.
In short, it was a corrupt fix worthy of the city of Chicago.
State officials have documentation on the fraudulent nature of the purported “competitive procurement” of the site and the developer. Many hundreds of hours of unpaid investigative activity, interviews, public information act requests, advocacy and analysis lay behind the case put to the state to withhold taxpayer support for the project. (See http://frederickhotelboondoggle.us/2019/03/submission-made-to-state-office-of-legislative-audits-and-board-of-public-works/.)
Gov. Hogan told me on the second occasion I spoke to him: “I know about this project. It is not going to get any state funds.” My guess is that he’d tell Mayor O’Connor the same thing.