Former City Hall powerbroker Kimberly L. Morton, who retired in 2020 as Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s chief of staff, is set to return to the payroll as a “contract services specialist” for the sheriff’s office.
Her new job: to “prevent waste on behalf of the fiscal office of the sheriff,” according to this week’s Board of Estimates agenda.
Her pay: $150 an hour, or 41% more than she made as Young’s COS, according to city records.
Morton’s assignment is set to start this Wednesday once Mayor Brandon Scott and the BOE approve her contract, which specifies “312 hours not to exceed $46,800” ($150/hour x 312 hours).
Baltimore’s Administrative Manual allows retirees to be hired by city agencies on hourly contracts.
But the rate of pay “can be no more” than the difference between the person’s maximum salary “if he/she were employed full-time by the city and the retiree’s maximum City Retirement Systems benefit” (i.e., yearly pension), according to AM 212-1, Part 1.
To get around this restriction, which would drastically reduce Morton’s hourly pay, Sheriff John W. Anderson is asking the mayor and spending board to waive “the hourly portion” of AM 212, the agenda says.
Allegations of Waste
Morton started as an attorney in the office of State’s Attorney Patricia Jessamy in 2004.
She quickly rose to bureaucratic prominence as deputy director of the Department of Public Works and as either chief of staff or deputy COS for three Baltimore mayors – Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Catherine Pugh and Young.
After a falling out with Pugh in 2017, Morton returned to DPW, upping her pay by nearly $20,000, before returning to City Hall in 2019 as Young’s COS.
After Young lost in the 2020 Democratic primary, Morton was identified by The Brew as instigating the promotion of many of her allies at Human Resources and DPW – and the removal of several rivals, including former Housing and Community Development Commissioner Michael Braverman.
One top DPW administrator, Shaaron Phillips, whose job was eliminated, filed a lawsuit that accused Morton of engaging in fraud and waste in the implementation of the city’s problem-plagued water meter program.
The lawsuit alleged that Morton forced Phillips to hire the unqualified sister of her boyfriend as head of the BaltiMeter program and backdated employment records so that the sister, Jennifer Ludwig, could receive $104,000 in extra pay.
Last July, the Scott administration paid Phillips over $155,000 to settle her suit out of court.
Ludwig, meanwhile, was terminated shortly before Mayor Young left office in December 2020. She was on the DPW payroll at $140,000 a year.
Helping to Get Anderson Re-elected
A well-informed source, who requested anonymity, said Morton has been “very, very close politically” to Sheriff Anderson since her days in the state’s attorney’s office.
“Anderson is running for re-election this year, and Kim is going to help him win – and make some money to supplement her pension,” the source asserted.
A resident of North Baltimore’s Village of Cross Keys, Morton could not be reached for comment.
The sheriff’s contract was placed on the board agenda by Mayor Scott’s office, and Scott is unlikely to turn down an request by a fellow elected official.
The agenda does not say how Morton plans to “prevent waste” in the sheriff’s office or what, if any, work product is expected by the agency.
Earlier this month, Morton gave $250 to indicted Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, a close friend who retains, on another employment contract, Morton’s former boyfriend, Douglas Ludwig, the brother of Jennifer Ludwig.
A retired city prosecutor, Douglas Ludwig is paid $46,800 a year to review arrests and provide bail recommendations for violent felonies and firearm charges.
Unlike Morton, Douglas Ludwig gets only $39 an hour on his retiree contract and is expected to work 1,200 hours to earn his full allotted pay.