Bill Henry says new travel rules amount to mayoral “overreach”
The rules will make elected officials accountable to the mayor rather than to their constituents, comptroller argues. UPDATED with Mayor Scott’s reply.
Above: Bill Henry during his primary run last year to replace Joan Pratt as city comptroller. (Ian Round)
City Comptroller Bill Henry released a statement today denouncing revised rules for work-related travel by elected officials as mayoral “overreach.”
Henry was the sole vote against the rules, which were ratified yesterday by Mayor Brandon Scott and his two appointees on the Board of Estimates.
The board’s fifth member, City Council President Nick Mosby, abstained.
“I am concerned that a working group of unelected officials came up with a policy in which they decided they were going to treat elected officials as if they were all accountable to the mayor as opposed to being accountable to their constituents,” Henry said.
Given the mayor’s control over the BOE, the requirement that other elected officials submit their travel arrangements to the panel amounts to “letting the mayor reign over the decisions of other elected officials,” he protested.
Henry said a better practice would be to require both elected and non-elected employees to notify the Ethics Board in advance of any travel that is paid for by third parties.
Cal Harris, the mayor’s communications director, issued this response:
“The Board of Estimates approval of the new travel expense policy for elected officials upholds the transparency that Mayor Scott considers necessary to rebuild trust in City Hall. Whether elected or non-elected, the mayor believes it is only fair to demand the same level of accountability and procedure for travel expenses.”
Currently, elected officials are asked to submit out-of-town expenses to the board if the city pays for the trips.
But it’s long been standard practice for elected officials to also submit travel costs funded by nonprofits, outside sponsors and city pension funds.
Notice of the travel expenditures are published and then approved as part of the spending board’s routine agenda.
The revised rules explicitly require travel worth over $100 that is funded by an outside party to be submitted to the board.
The new policy was developed after an inspector general’s investigation found that Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who is the wife of Nick Mosby, did not report more than a dozen out-of-state and foreign trips in 2018 and 2019.
Mosby said the trips did not have to be disclosed to the BOE because they were funded by third parties, mostly social justice groups, and not by city taxpayers.
Henry’s full statement can be found here.