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City Council kills audit plan in surprise 8-7 vote

Sponsor Carl Stokes says Mayor Rawlings-Blake tipped the scales against the bill.

stokes after vote

Carl Stokes accused three city councilmen of switching their votes to defeat the audit bill.

Photo by: Mark Reutter

A bill that would have placed on the November ballot a plan to audit city agencies every two years was defeated today in the City Council.

Sponsor Carl Stokes said he was “stunned” by the 7-8 rejection, and charged three councilmen with switching their votes under pressure from the mayor’s office.

“I was completely thrown for a loop,” Stokes said, of the “nay” votes of Councilmen William H. Cole IV, Nick Mosby and William “Pete” Welch, all of whom Stokes said promised to support the bill. (Welch was one of the sponsors of the bill.)

The bill was believed to have had the lukewarm support of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, whose administration at first opposed the bill as too costly, until the mayor released a letter on June 12 suggesting that City Comptroller Joan Pratt should conduct audits of large city agencies “on a routine basis.”

Yesterday, however, the mayor’s representative on the City Council, Edward Reisinger, took the initiative in quickly moving the bill to a vote under the steady gaze of Kim Washington, deputy director of government and community affairs, and other members of the mayor’s inner circle.

“The mayor didn’t like this bill because of the person who sponsored it,” Stokes told The Brew. “I am bothered by the lack of civility of my colleagues and by the mayor’s office. This is not the way to do good legislation.”

Not Audited in Decades

Stokes’ bill had gained popular momentum in the last two months after it was revealed that most city agencies have not been audited since the reign of Mayor William Donald Schaefer in the 1980s, if not earlier.

“No one remembers when departments, such as Recreation and Parks, were audited last,” Stokes said, adding, “In truth, we don’t know if the numbers we are voting on in the budget are real. All this bill asked the City Council to do is to allow the voters to decide whether they want audits.”

Referring to Cole, Mosby and Welch, Stokes said in an interview, “They not only had told me they support this [bill], they said they were enthusiastic about it – that it makes good sense.”

The bill also had the support of community activists and several former city officials.

“Nay” Voters Say they Support Audits

Mosby and Welch said this evening that they fully support agency audits, but had reservations about the Stokes bill.

“I’m always a friend of auditing. My career started in auditing,” said Welch, who represents West Baltimore. But he said, “I’m not sure you need to bring the process and policy before the voters. If you do, each voter will spend an hour in the voter booth, micromanaging the system.”

Noting that the defeated audit bill was sent back to the Council’s Judiciary Committee for further review, Welch said, “I’ll have wonderful amendments for Carl’s bill. I’d like to support it in a different form.”

Mosby said that his “no” vote today should not be interpreted as being against audits. “I’m in favor, but it has to be effective,” he said after the vote.

He faulted the Stokes bill for calling for the audits of all city agencies every two years, rather than being more selective.

“[The bill] gives a pretense to voters that we’ll do [audit] 30 or 40 different agencies. The likelihood of that would be slim. I want something to be effective instead of currying to your emotions. That means a focus on agencies that have the size and budget that makes sense to audit.”

Mosby, who represents parts of northwest and north Baltimore, called for auditing rules that are “dynamic,” and faulted the Stokes approach to auditing as “static.”

Fellow councilman, Brandon Scott, who voted against the bill, said he, too, supported audits, but warned against “a cobra that has no venom.”

In order for audits to be effective in Baltimore, Scott said, the mayor, department heads and the City Council have to “all come together and make this happen. Then we’d have something that is good.”

Cole did not return a phone call seeking comment tonight.

Vote Breakdown

Cole, Mosby, Reisinger, Scott and Welch joined Robert Curran, Rochelle “Rikki” Spector and Sharon Green Middleton in opposing the bill.

The Councilmen voting in favor were in addition to Stokes: James B. Kraft, Bill Henry, Helen Holton, Warren Branch, Mary Pat Clarke and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young.

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  • Smiley

    Utter contempt and disrespect for the taxpayer bordering on loathing. What else could it be?

  • Steve

    Is referendum really required to have audits? Pratt can simply do them routinely can’t she? However, that hasn’t been her MO to date. I simply have little confidence in the general public to make intelligent decisions. That’s how W got a second term.

  • Unellu

    What did I tell you–corruption and ethical sloth pervade the city elders.  They are no elders–most of them–they are abysmal failures at holding themselves accountable to the public that placed them where they are today.  They are juvenile delinquents.  Shame!

  • Concentric1

    Once again, it is demonstrated that the Baltimore City Council courts a strange pedigree of cowards and crooks.

  • Skypie6

    Tomfoolery. The games they play today will haunt them in the future. The public is becoming more knowledgable about the Mayor and City Council lack o enthusiam to better this City

    • ibbieta

      Haha no, it will only haunt the citizens

  • Kim Trueheart

    The Baltimore City Comptroller currently has the authority to conduct agency and performance audits NOW.  She has requested additional resources from our dictitorial Mayor to accomplish some level of increased auditing, however she has NOT told US how many additional audits will be performed with the additional resources.  I’d like to see a schedule of audits for the coming year from the Comptroller which we can then hold her accountable to complete. I don’t like the proposed Charter Amendment option because it has NO more teeth that what is currently mandated, which has been ignored for decades. The Council can/should compell the Comptroller to produce an audit schedule annually, then the public can testify at a public hearing about whether the list is acceptable to US or NOT.  When public officials fail to do their job, voters need to elect new officials … You can’t legislate your way out of this … Only voting can FIX this mess!!!

    • steve

      So true.

  • worinld

    who has something to hide….
    and Mosby, wasn’t he supposed to be fresh blood in the council?

  • Ediorfitz

    Stokes is surprised? Why am I not. Business as usual for a corrupt city enity.

  • surelysirly

    Its so sad that Carl Stokes is the voice of reason and one of the most progressive members on the council, its an indication of just how bad politics are in Baltimore.

  • glsever

    As I expected would be the case, Brandon Scott is proving that he is really just a puppet of the Mayor.  And we all know that Pete Welch is a dirtball.  But Mosby really disappointed me…

  • Lex Apostata

    I am disappointed by Mosby and Cole. Welch is a joke so I expected nothing from him (and haven’t been disappointed).

  • Beak

    Fun fact:  there are currently 29 civil service openings on the Baltimore City employment page, 3 of which are for auditors.

  • I voted for the other guy!

    I remember the 9th District Race and Michael Eugene Johnson warned the other 7 candidates that Welch would be a rubber stamp for the mayor and that if they all stayed in the race Welch would win well he did…. I voted for the very independent Johnson and I see him still working for the communty fighting the good fight……………….Man my wife and I wanted him to win ……………..Come back Michael Eugene Johnson maybe the other 7 have moved out in 2015 we have to get rid of Welch

  • WILL HANNA

    What a sad state that the City of Baltimore is in.  Not only did the City Council vote down budget amendments that would keep recreation centers and pools open and expand youthworks opportunities, but now, they vote down a bill that would audit every city agancy every 2 years?  This is embarrassing! 

  • Marcpulliam

    This audit NEEDS to happen. This city is unreal. I have a feeling that if they were audited there would be a boatload of refunds that will need to be dispersed to homeowners and they are trying to avoid it.

    Just like the water bill situation…they were apparently overcharging me! My bill has been adjusted FINALLY!

    Come on SRB…stop worrying about YOUR makeover and makeover THIS CITY!!

  • Tableclocksmoe moe

    lol…no   one   wants  to  get  a  audit….unless  they  can  get  to  the  auditors   first….and  that  will  happen  soon…follow   the  money….the   so  called  charge  cards  they  all  have…expance  accounts…what  a  big  joke….they  all  miss  time   from  work  like   crazy…and  cover  for  one  another…the  school  principles miss  a  lot  of  time..lol…and  friends  of  friends  in  the  school  systen…try  to  turn  people  in  and  your  black balled   and  or  fired….not  just  here  in  balto….but  i  guess  its  all  over….

  • http://www.facebook.com/kiefaber Tom Kiefaber

    Our shameless city council has degenerated into a worthless puddle of snot. Time for cyber group, flash rally triggers to be pulled for mass protest assemblies at war memorial plaza. We must move on to embrace more radical civic actions by marshaling Baltimore’s hoards of disaffected & ignored east & west side youth, utilizing cyber flash technology.These festering boils on the body politic voted to continue our banana republic’s kleptocracy, as Baltimore City swirls around the economic toilet bowl of the *great recession*. This time however, unlike ’68, it should begin as targeted, non-violent, civil disobedience actions concentrating on the inner harbor business district, & not the burn-baby-burn of ’68 in the neighborhoods. Our reprehensible city government slugs will never do what’s so desperately needed until they are forced to act by overt civil actions targeted to shut down the business district commerce along with the city’s closing recreation centers. Disrupt & hold hostage the commerce that fuels their greedy allegiance to the municipal corruption so deeply embedded at City Hall. You game?  

  • Evd15truck

    Cole, Mosby, Reisinger, Scott and Welch joined Robert
    Curran, Rochelle “Rikki” Spector and Sharon Green Middleton If you all are
    SCARED just say you are scared! What a joke, From Pete Welch’s comments he must
    think taxpayers don’t have a clue how to manage money. Also for the record Pete, It
    is obvious CITY HALL NEEDS SOME MICRO-MANAGING!

  • Fire and Metal

    It is obvious that an audit is needed simply by the very fact that Mayor Failings Blake dosent want it.

  • Baltimoreplaces

    This simply indicates that the powers that be know things are mess, wasteful and corrupt.  I believe we all know this on a gut level.  Honesty and awarenes is always the first in getting better.  Clearly this city wants to stay sick, many of our elected officials and community leaders depend on it.

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