In a recent letter to the editor by Peter Samuel titled “Alderman O’Connor dropped the ball in 2013 at crucial moment in hotel project,” Samuel claimed that the mayor and Board of Aldermen, including O’Connor, operated in secrecy making “decision(s) ... behind closed doors” and this casts a “dark shadow over the procurement” regarding the downtown hotel.

Samuel has now filed two complaints with the State Ethics Commission alleging that the mayor and aldermen conspired with the Downtown Hotel Advisory Committee and conducted the hotel selection process in secrecy for years.

There is the saying: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” One can make a similar statement: “If public meetings were held about the proposed hotel and Samuel failed to show up, were they open meetings?”

Between the first BoA workshop with the advisory committee in February 2010 until November 2015, when the city signed the MOU with Plamondon, there were by my count two dozen open (not secret) public meetings — briefings by the advisory committee, workshops, hearings, and informational meetings about the downtown hotel.

In addition, there were at least four dozen articles in The News-Post (openly read) and other news outlets during that time period. The vocal opponents did not bother to show up at the public meetings where the site selection criteria were discussed, nor the public meetings about the RFP, nor when the TIF financing was discussed, nor when the various MOUs with the county and state were discussed, nor the presentation about the two proposals received, nor the public meeting where the award to Plamondon was discussed.

Samuel and other vocal opponents for many years seem to have been dozing, apathetic, clueless, or failed to keep themselves informed about the progress of the downtown hotel project by not bothering to attend or listening or providing testimony at meetings of the mayor and aldermen.

It has been eight years (February 2010) since the advisory committee made its first presentation to the city in a public mayor and BOA workshop in February 2010, four years (February 2014) since the hotel RFP was issued in an open meeting, and 3½ years (September 2014) since the award was made to Plamondon in an OPEN meeting.

All of the meetings were open to the public (not secret). Samuel just failed to show up — Rip Van Winkle for about six years.

Don Burgess

Frederick

(52) comments

DickD

Why is Don so personal and insulting to Gabriel? Is he that way all the time?

gabrielshorn2013

Dunno Dick. He can dish it but is a real p_ssy when someone returns his insults. The FNP editorial Nazis just deleted my comment that responded to yours where I referred to him as an anus.

gabrielshorn2013

Yeah, he's a real wrecked 'em.

threecents

I actually don't see anything wrong with state and local government support for a project like this that could benefit the town, as long as it is handled well and transparently. The Plamendons must be thinking that with friends like Don, who needs enemies. His angry and illogical arguments are not helping them.

stevemckay

Why on earth did the FNP run this letter again?

elymus43

Mr. Samuel should not have to attend meetings, he is doing a job by informing the people with his LTEs.

Burgessdr

How can he possible inform people given he is terribly uninformed by failing to attend public meetings on the matter?

gary4books

Really?

des21

Don has never met a developmental project he didn't support. He's like that evil character in the Lorax who wants to cut down all the trees and charge people for air (you know, by that anti-business pinko Dr. Seuss.)[beam]

gary4books

IF Frederick did not need some assistance in funding a hotel project downtown, we would have a hotel now. Since we do not have that hotel, there ought to be funding that is legal and respectable. One source is described as "The Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) was established by the General Assembly in 1986. The original mission was to build, manage and maintain quality facilities to retain major league baseball, and return NFL football to Maryland. MSA is committed to enhancing the Maryland experience for those who live, work and visit here. In addition, MSA currently oversees projects such as 21st Century School Buildings Program and Project C.O.R.E., which orchestrates the demolition of blighted structures throughout Baltimore City. The sports commission for the state of Maryland, known as Maryland Sports, is a division of MSA and has been since its existence in 2008." There are good reasons many projects are assisted.

threecents

Gary, That sounds reasonable, except why would a stadium office fund a conference center? Disconnects like that can sometimes lead to suspicions when we try to follow the money.

gary4books

And the Stadium Office declined to fund. The question was "How did the idea for funding get started?" and my answer was that many projects need some help to get started and even if hey do not make big profits can help local development and local businesses with more customers. If you look at the web page for the stadium office, they have many projects they do fund. Actually a good question.

matts853

Don, 2 words:

You're wrong.

Burgessdr

Strong argument you make

gabrielshorn2013

At what point in this process was it determined to use taxpayer money for partial funding? Was a public notice sent to County and State residents informing us that this was an item for discussion? The first I heard of this project was the LTE section of the FNP. I couldn't care less if you want to put a hotel downtown. Go for it! But if you want to pick our pockets to do so, you are going to have a problem. Such projects should be privately funded.

DickD

[thumbup][thumbup]

Burgessdr

None.of your measly real estate or income tax will used to pay for the hotel. In fact, the hotel will be paying taxes to pay for schools for your urchin children to attend school. The hotel will be paying about $800,000 per year in real estate taxes. Thats not you. About $500,000 per year in parking fees. Thats not you. About $400,000 in hotel taxes. Thats not you. The hotel and its employees and additional jobs downtown will be about an additional $800,000 in state income taxes. Thats not you. Increased sales taxes of about $200,000 on new purchases. That's not you. Additional taxes associated with construction of the new hotel. Thats not you.

gabrielshorn2013

So, are you saying that the reports of $31 million in taxpayer funding for this project are false? We’re not just talking about the hotel building. It’s the entire project. Not mentioning in your response is a tad disingenuous, don’t you think?

Burgessdr

Gabriel, I am sorry you are slow. The $31 million you claim that are your tax dollars - are not your tax dollars.

There is $3 million from Plamondon's hotel tax paid by guests of the hotel. That is not your taxes. There is $4 million from Plamondon's real estate taxes (about half of their total real estate tax bill). Those are not your taxes. There is $3.5 million from parking garage user fees paid by those who park at the garage. Those are not your taxes. The purchase price of the land will be repayed by leasing the land to Plamondon who will pay for the city owned land. Not your taxes. There are $1.5 million per year from Plamondon state income and employee state income taxes (over 20 years that makes $30 million). Again, not your taxes.

There is zero impact on your real estate and personal income taxes. You should be better informed.

gabrielshorn2013

Ok, inform me. Where does the $31 million come from? Are any taxpayer dollars to be used in the entire project? Please talk about the entire project and not just the hotel building. You keep talking about revenue streams, but not the costs. Nice diversion. Like I said before, this project should stand on its own merits with private funding, and not include state or county funds (which come from taxpayers). The more you evade, the less likely this project passes the smell test.

Burgessdr

Gabriel, you have difficulty reading and comprehending.

The $31 million comes from various places.  $3 million from Plamondon's hotel tax, $4 million from Plamondon's real estate tax,  $2 million from Plamondon's leasing the property,   $3.5 million from parking garage user fees, a whopping $0.25 million from the City's CIP,  $0.5 million from Smart Growth grant, and most of the rest from increased income and sales tax from the hotel. Estimated at $1.5 million per year times 20 years that makes $30 million into state coffers for income and sales tax alone. 

shiftless88

Don, you are assuming that the hotel is successful and prosperous. As we know, they aren't always. In fact if it were a slam dunk to be successful and prosperous then it wouldn't need public funding in the first place, correct? If it is not successful and prosperous then it cannot pay all the taxes and we are on the hook for the shortfall, IIRC.

gabrielshorn2013

Exactly shiftless. He is describing revenue streams that will be used to pay back the citizens if the hotel is profitable. He also refers above to paying the state for the lease of the property. However, that land is currently owned by the Randalls. How does ownership get transferred to the state without a sale? Did the Randalls donate it?

Burgessdr

Gabriel.  Again you are uninformed.  The state will not own the property as you erroneously claim.  The city will own the property.  You seem to have lots of opinions on the matter,  but like Samuel appear to have been dozing with regard to public information on the project.  The Randalls will sell the property to the developer and then the property will be transferred to the city and the developer will then pay 6% yearly ground rent  which is the most typical capitalization rate in Maryland.   Good deal for the city - it doesnt cost them anything for the property worth several million plus the Plamondon will pay ground rent plus pay property taxes.

Burgessdr

Gabriel. The concept of a public private partnership for a downtown hotel conference center has been around for at least 20 years. Again, sorry you are so slow.

gabrielshorn2013

Wow, out of town for a few days and your insults continue. First, OK, you caught me. I inadvertently misstated that the property would be transferred to the state instead of the city. My bad. Nonetheless, it still does not support your statements that no public money will be used for the project. Secondly, you now state that there is a public/private partnership. Why would such a partnership be needed if no public money was involved? Honest people state all the facts, not just the ones that support their position. I had no reason to look into this issue before because I live in the county, NOT the city. What you do with your city funding is your own business. It is only when I learned that there was a bit of corporate welfare here, that benefits two families, that I decided to express my opinions. I am beginning to believe that Peter Samuel and the other commenters are correct in their assessment that there is a lot of crooked deals going on with this. Finally Bubba, I usually don’t do this, but in your case I will make an exception. I have been nothing but respectful in my questions and responses to you. Apparently your arguments are so weak that you need to throw insults around. It is your honesty and integrity that is lacking, and it is readily apparent to all that read these comments. Of all the LTE and comments here, why is it that only you have been such a proponent of this project? Are you the only knowledgeable one? Are you in on the deal? You lookin’ for that piece of the pie, that big score there Bubba?

DickD

Matt, four words; you are absolutely right! [thumbup]

KellyAlzan

Appears that the writer isn't understanding what is being opposed

bicep42

Maybe the letter writer isn’t aware of what the opposition to this corporate welfare giveaway opponents are working on because of his outrageous behavior in the past. I wouldn’t be too smug 😜

jerseygrl42

whether or not he or anyone else showed for a meeting(s) is immaterial to the central issue; that being the misuse of $31 Million in public money to benefit two families; if the hotel can't stand on its own two feet it should NOT be built, not unlike the $89 Million the taxpayers are shelling out to feather the nest of developer Kline who built a NON-technology park for which the taxpayers paid for the access/egress off Rt 340 ....and guess what...no tech, no jobs, no restaurants....just a big charade to benefit one person; and now Kline wants to build a warehouse amidst the homes that were built and isn't that just grand....and the beat goes on

DickD

What you fail to admit is most, if not all of us, are not against the hotel. We are against the use of taxes from the State and elsewhere. You also fail to realize or admit those of us not living in the City could care less about your City meetings and see no reason to attend. But then the City and Ron Young found a way to steal our tax dollars from the State. for reimbursement of a parking lot for the hotel. It was not done in an open way, you know it, we know it.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] Dick!!![thumbdown]

gabrielshorn2013

Sorry Dick, that should haveg been three thumbs and none down . Fat fingers I guess. [thumbup][rolleyes]

DickD

[lol] I was SMH, until I saw your second post.

threecents

You would prefer that when they steal our tax dollars, they do it in a more open way?

DickD

I would prefer no theft and if they were open about it, doubt that they would get away with it.

KellyAlzan

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup]

richardlyons

Nap time Don.

Dwasserba

Opposition can happen at any time during a process. Doesn't mean it isn't valid.

Burgessdr

No. The time to provide comments is at the public hearings on the matter, not 3-5 years later. Furthermore the procedure for filing an Open Meetings complaint is within 45 days of the alleged violation. Filing a complaint three years later is, well, three years too late, an impotent Hail Mary.

shiftless88

Isn't it hard to know that there was a closed meeting because, well, it wouldn't be advertised?

gabrielshorn2013

Exactly shiftless. If there is a public meeting that nobody knows about and was not advertised, is it really public? No. As Dick said, those outside the city had no reason to inquire about city meetings, but we get stuck with a tax bill. These meetings, because of their implications, should have been publicized through several outlets, not just a sticky note on a bulletin board in Winchester Hall.

Burgessdr

There was no closed meeting of the Aldermen, by definition, regarding the issuance of the RFP, by definition. There is no requirement for them to hold any meeting regarding a RFP. They don't make the decison to issue an RFP, so no decision in public (or closed) could have been made. The city procurement office issues all RFPs. Not the BOA. Its pretty simple. The issue here is Samuel failed to show up at all the many briefings before the BOA by the commiittee, failed to show up at the public meetings when the criteria were discussed, failed to show up at the public pre-bid meeting, failed to show at the meeting when the ranking of the proposals was discussed, failed to show up when the award was made, failed to show up at the meetings when the various MOUs between city, county, state were approved, failed repeatedly to show up at dozens of public meetings. Never voiced his concerns. Didnt show up until after the fat lady sang. Now three years later making a claim that it ALL was done in secret at every step of the way. He had years to express his concerns but did not. Too little too late. Don't talk to me, talk to Samuel. Ask why he was dozing for most of a decade.

Dwasserba

Yes.

petersamuel

Donald: On me "dozing for most of a decade" until 2014 I had a 10 or 12 hour a day 6 day a week job producing tollroadsnews.com and no time for local affairs like the hotel. After I sold the business and retired at age 74 I spent about a year following the Historic Preservation Commission and doing some critical writing on that. I first took an interest in the hotel as a supporter and spoke in favor of the hotel part at a Mayor & Board meeting late 2015 -- with the reservation that the conference center part which they say needed taxpayer subsidies of $20m they said then (grown from $10m to $12m quoted initially) should be excised from the project. Since then by seeking out City documents, interviewing people, reviewing the archives etc I have changed my mind completely -- because I discovered it is a corrupt racket. It was never competed fairly. It was a fix on behalf of Plamondon. The real decisions were mostly made in closed meetings of the Hotel Advisory Committee on which Plamondon sat, not at the dog and pony shows put on in the City Hall hearing room. But yes I do doze off from time to time and I dream of city government run by honest and courageous people with the smarts to spot scoundrels on the City payroll.

gabrielshorn2013

[thumbup][thumbup][thumbup] petersamuel

Burgessdr

Peter. Critical writing on the HPC? Oh you mean the vitrolic emails, phone calls and letters you sent to the HPC staff? Until you got a phone call from the City Attorney ordering you to cease and desist from making threatening and libellous accusations against HPC staff.

threecents

Closed door meetings are part of the American government's way of doing business. I applaud Frederick for trying to end the corruption associated with them, but I also appreciate how tricky that must be.

shiftless88

Your logic is off: just because there were open meetings doesn't mean there were no "closed" meetings in violation of the open meetings act.

public-redux

Yeah, I noticed that too.

Burgessdr

Your logic is off. Just because someone files a complaint does not mean there was a violation. Futhermore for those with the ability to read there is no requirement for a public hearing for issuance of a RFP. In fact dozens of RFPs worth millions of dollars are issued each year by the City, and none subject to a public hearing. The awards of course are subject to public hearings, but Samuel failed to show up at those. They were open, but he was dozing.

shiftless88

I did not claim that because someone files a complaint that there was a violation, I only pointed out that your letter did not provide any evidence that there was no violation. You can't say "there were a bunch of open meetings so that means there couldn't have been a closed meeting". That does not logically follow.

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