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Accountabilityby Mark Reutter4:45 pmMay 30, 20180

$429-a-night hotel rooms for HR director and staff

A sampling of travel and training costs approved by the Pugh administration

Above: Major James Rhoden is scheduled for $10,000 worth of training, while Mary Talley will enjoy pricey accommodations during a Chicago conference. (LinkedIn)

Mayor Catherine Pugh and the Board of Estimates today sprinkled $60,000 worth of travel and training approvals without comment or question.

The requests ran the gamut from a Health Department program manager whose speech will cover the full price of her Midwest trip to three senior Human Resources employees, each of whom will occupy a $429-a-night hotel room for nearly a week.

Jennifer Kirschner’s speech before the National Reproductive Health Conference in Kansas City will pay for her airfare, ground transportation, meals, hotel accommodations and registration.

“City funds will not be expended,” says the board’s agenda.

In contrast, Mary H. Talley, director of the Department of Human Resources, and two of her aides will attend the Society for Human Resource Management Conference in Chicago between June 16 and 21.

Total cost: $13,066.05.

More than half of the expenses come from staying at a hotel that’s 50% above the $289-a-day recommended “subsistence rate” that the city uses for staff staying in Chicago. (The allowable rate for federal government employees lodging in Chicago is $215-a-day, according to FedTravel.com.)

One of Baltimore’s best-paid officials at $192,900 a year, Talley asked the board for $2,100 above the city’s subsistence rate to cover her own hotel costs as well as those for HR deputy director Jacia T. Smith and senior HR professional Njukang Asong.

Another $1,120 was allotted to cover Chicago’s stiff hotel tax. As for the trio’s meals and incidentals in the Windy City – north of $600.

HR Department is still stuck in the age of pen and paper.

A dozen other employees got board approval today to travel to California, Tennessee, Georgia, Florida and Massachusetts.

For example, Berke Attila and Chichi Nyagah-Nash, at the Department of General Services, will attend the Government Fleet Expo in San Diego at a cost of $5,300.

Two health department employees will spend three nights in Atlanta as part of a STD prevention program ($2,852).

And Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton will head off to the National Association of Counties annual conference in Nashville ($2,256) next month.

There she will be joined by City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and two aides, whose travel and hotel expenses of $6,627 were approved by the board on March 30.

Training Police

The BOE also rubber stamped a Police Department request to send four veteran officers and one new hire to training sessions at faraway locales.

Paula L. Williams is bound for San Clemente, Calif., to attend a week-long training session at the Police Budget Academy. The cost: $1,908.

Williams was grants manager at East Baltimore Development Inc. at the same time that retired BPD commander Andre Bonaparte ran EBDI’s security services.

Bonaparte came out of retirement in February to take over the department’s No. 2 position, deputy commissioner of operations. In March, Williams was hired as the new director of fiscal services.

Another high-ranking policeman, Major Byron J. Conaway, will attend a Law Enforcement Executive Development Association (LEEDA) conference next week in West Palm Springs, FL. His travel and hotel expenses of $1,800 will exclude the return air fare to Baltimore because Conaway “is staying after the conference for personal reasons,” according to the board.

Last October, the same spending board paid $135,000 to a man who was shot in the leg by Conaway when he commanded the southwestern police district.

The payment settled a civil lawsuit; Conaway had earlier been cleared of criminal wrongdoing by State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby’s office.

Musical Chairs

Another major, James Rhoden, will fly to Boston next month for a $9,300 training session sponsored by Senior Management Institute for Police. (The three-week session includes the cost of books, meals and lodging, but excludes airfare that the city will pay for.)

Rhoden was BPD’s own top trainer last December and January when he was named head of the Police Training Academy by then-Commissioner Kevin Davis.

After Davis was booted out by the mayor in January, Rhoden was reassigned to the Office of the Inspector General, a new division created by Davis’ successor, Darryl De Sousa.

It was then announced that Rhoden would become chief of the Consent Decree Implementation Unit. But plans changed when De Sousa abruptly resigned as commissioner following federal tax charges.

Under the latest organizational chart established by Interim Commissioner Gary Tuggle, Rhoden is listed as head of another freshly-minted entity at police headquarters, the Community Behavioral Health Services Unit.

Traveling Cheap

Two other senior cops will also undergo executive training in Boston this summer at a price tag of just under $20,000.

Both officers – Major Martin Bartness and Lt. Michael Pool – have been associated with the Strategic Services Bureau, but neither was elevated to the upper headquarters echelons by De Sousa and now Tuggle.

On the flip side, travel is cheap for City Council members Bill Henry and Shannon Sneed, who are headed to the Seventh Annual Local Progress convention.

Council members Henry and Sneed are each asking for $179-a-night in hotel expenses.

The group, a network of progressive municipal elected officials, is holding a four days of seminars and sessions in Minneapolis next month.

Henry and Sneed each asked for $179-a-night in hotel expenses – 16% less than the recommended rate for the Twin Cities – plus airfare and a $6-a-day allotment for food and incidentals.

Their total expenses – $1,204 for Henry and $1,036 for Sneed – are one sixth of the cost of Mary Talley’s Windy City contingent.

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