Following Monday’s City Council meeting where Carl Stokes stood out as the only councilman vocally opposed to a $107 million TIF financing subsidy for Harbor Point, the developer’s public relations consultant marched up to the councilman with a blunt message.
“You’re done,” Steve Kearney told Stokes, according to two witnesses. “I’ll make sure you’re through in politics in Baltimore.”
According to the witnesses, Stokes replied, “You don’t determine that.” Kearney then told Stokes he better hope that his “dinosaurs” come through with political support in the next election because “I’m going after you.”
Stokes confirmed tonight that the conversation took place, but declined to discuss the matter further.
“Too stupid,” Stokes calls the threat
“It was too stupid,” Stokes told The Brew in a phone interview tonight. “I don’t want to go there.”
Stokes said he feared that publicity of the exchange – which took place in the Council chambers where Kearney spent the evening watching the session and buttonholing council members who momentarily left the floor – would distract from what he termed the real issue – the “unjustifiable use of taxpayers’ money to subsidize a developer who doesn’t need a subsidy.”
Kearney did not respond to an email request for comment sent through Kearney O’Doherty (KO) Public Relations, the firm he co-founded with Damian O’Doherty.
Kearney was Martin O’Malley’s director of policy and communications while O’Malley was mayor of Baltimore and director of communications when O’Malley became governor.
On its website, KO Public Relations describes itself as a “strategic communications firm that helps clients win where business, government, politics and media meet.”
Hired by Michael Beatty, the developer of Harbor Point, KO Public Relations has played an active behind-the-scenes role in moving the $107 million TIF tax increment funding legislation through City Hall.
Kearney has attended all of the City Council hearings about the TIF proposal, while his KO colleague, Howard Libit, a former Baltimore Sun editor, has served in various capacities, including transporting poster boards to media events where Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has lauded Harbor Point.
A Pawn of Peter Angelos?
The “dinosaurs” that Kearney alluded to in his exchange with Stokes is a reference to Peter Angelos, owner of the Baltimore Orioles.
In briefings with editors at The Daily Record and with the editorial board of The Baltimore Sun, Kearney and other members of the Beatty team have presented disclosure statements of campaign contributions that Stokes received from Angelos in 2011.
KO’s spin is that Stokes is being used as a pawn by Angelos, who is opposed to Harbor Point because of his large real estate holdings downtown and alleged rivalry with John Paterakis, the H&S Bakery mogul who has close ties to Beatty.
“Angelos is the story,” Kearney likes to tell reporters covering the Harbor Point controversy.
The campaign contributions from Angelos to Stokes were reported by The Brew as part of this website’s exhaustive coverage of the 2011 campaign finances of local officeholders.
Through six business entities, Angelos contributed $15,000 to Stokes as he ran for his 12th District Council seat – and an additional $5,000 during his exploratory campaign for mayor.
In an interview last week, Stokes was asked if his opposition to the $107 million Harbor Point TIF was directed or influenced by Angelos. His reply: “Peter has never picked up the phone and asked me to do this or that [on the Council]. He helped me out two years ago, and I do talk to Mr. Angelos off and on.”
Stokes said he has acted entirely on his own when he denounced fellow members of the Taxation Committee for voting to pass the Harbor Point TIF legislation without thoroughly vetting the issue.
Stokes said he knew KO Public Relations was spreading “misinformation” to the media about his relationship with Angelos. “When you don’t have the facts on your side, you go to slander and innuendo,” he said.