Harry E. Black, nominated to become Baltimore’s new director of finance, claims to have supervised a $500-million construction program at an architectural consulting firm where, according to a federal administrative judge’s finding in 2006, he “was not a key employee” and “had no management authority.”
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake last week selected Black for the city’s top financial post after a nationwide search.
Black, who replaces the retiring Edward Gallagher, is currently serving as acting director of finance subject to confirmation by the City Council. Typically, the City Council ratifies the mayor’s appointments with little scrutiny. In a press release, the mayor describes Black as “an experienced and capable leader” who can help “grow Baltimore in the next decade.”
The Brew and other media wrote about Black’s controversial 2005-08 tenure as chief financial officer and deputy administrator for Richmond, Va., where he was known as “the mayor’s pit bull” and was the center of several disputes.
A review of his resume indicates that he may have exaggerated his accomplishments before he went to work in Richmond.
Between 2000 and 2005 he was vice president of McKissack & McKissack, a woman/minority-owned design and architectural consulting firm in Washington, D.C.
On his resume, Black says that he “launched” McKissack & McKissack’s “marquis project” – a $500 million, five-year capital construction program for the U.S. Department of Labor Job Corps program while he was vice president and program manager at the company.
According to the resume, Black led a team of experts who “provided design and construction program management leadership supporting more than 118 [Job Corps] campuses across the United States, spending about $100 million annually on design and construction services.”
In addition, the resume says that Black “provided full-service construction claims litigation support [and] day-to-day real property acquisition and lease administration support associated with more than 20 million gross square feet of facilities.”
The resume ballyhoos the Job Corps project as one of four examples of his “exemplary record of leading public and private organizations” and his “ability to motivate, coach and inspire, coupled with an excellent history as an outcomes’ driver.”
“Vice President in Name Only”
The problem with this account is that it runs counter to the finding of an administrative law judge in a related case.
Looking at a joint venture by McKissack & McKissack and Global Commerce Solutions Inc. – a company founded by Black’s wife, Sheryl Black – Small Business Administration Judge Thomas B. Pender ruled on May 24, 2006 that “the preponderance of the evidence” showed that Harry Black had “no management authority when he worked for McKissack & McKissack” despite his title.
“Mr. Black is not a key employee of M&M [McKissack & McKissack] and has no ability or power to control M&M. He was originally hired by M&M as an independent consultant and his role as vice president was in name only,” the opinion, obtained by The Brew, said.
The Brew left a message yesterday morning on Black’s cell phone, citing the judge’s ruling and asking for comment. This was followed by emails to his personal account and to his new Baltimore city email address.
Black has so far not responded.
Judge Pender’s ruling was part of a case where a competing government contractor protested that McKissack & McKissack was using Global Commerce as a way to obtain certification as an 8(a) small business and thus qualify for a beneficial “set aside” in a Labor Department contract.
The judge ruled in favor of the protester and disallowed the formation of a joint venture between McKissack & McKissack and Global Commerce as a small business. The judge further noted that, by the date of his ruling, “Harry Black no longer works for M&M but is now employed by the City of Richmond, Va.”
Went to Work for Wife’s Company
Black’s employment as chief financial officer and deputy chief administrative officer under Richmond Mayor L. Douglas Wilder began in late 2005 and ended on November 21, 2008, a month before Wilder left office.
Black said he was resigning to work in the private sector. In fact, he joined his wife’s company and became executive vice president and chief operating officer of Global Commerce. Sheryl Black was listed as the 100% stockholder, president and sole director of the small company.
The Blacks have since operated the company mostly from their suburban house on Apache Place in Richmond. Under “accomplishments,” Harry Black lists increasing the company’s revenues from $1.3 million to almost $8 million – a six-fold increase in just three years – and said he manages “five direct and 89 indirect reports.”
The company has offices in Washington, D.C., and Atlanta. Its major contract is with the Job Corps where it supervises a property management inventory-tracking system.
Among the company’s responsibilities are conducting monthly visits to Job Corps regional offices to verify and validate personal property, conducting annual property reviews, and “assisting in completing revisions to the Policy Requirements Handbook and the Employment and Training Administration Property Management Handbook No. 359.”
As a 8(a) certified small business, the company also performs financial and audit training services for several federal agencies.
Specifically, the company says it provides audit support services for the Food Safety and Inspection Services of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, grants management support services for the Federal Railroad Administration, administrative staffing support for the Education and Training Administration of the U.S. Labor Department, and grant review and audit support services for the Procurement and Grants Office of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Seeking Stimulus Grants
Black has remained active in Richmond politics. In June 2009, he was hired to assist B&D Consulting to obtain federal stimulus funds for the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority. The agency was awarded $706,0000 in stimulus funds in November 2009 to update kitchens and baths in elderly and disabled housing units.
According to the Richmond StyleWeekly website, Black’s “own consulting company, Global Commerce Solutions,” had sought to represent the city in seeking stimulus funds.
Last month, Black lost out as one of three finalists competing for the position of president and CEO of Hampton Roads (Va.) Transit.
Although Black does not have public transit experience, he was considered adept at helping the agency win federal and state funding, according to local reports.