Inside City Hall
High-level resignations shake the Scott administration
The mayor’s laid-back management style and, some say, isolation put intense pressure on his staff amid record violence and Baltimore’s other woes
Above: Daniel Ramos and Sunny Schnitzer who joined the Scott administration at the same time, are now leaving.
Daniel C. Ramos and Olivia “Sunny” Schnitzer are leaving Brandon Scott’s cabinet a year after their appointments were announced as key elements of Scott’s electoral promise to “revolutionize and modernize” local government.
A farewell party is scheduled for Ramos, Baltimore’s first deputy city administrator, and Schnitzer, deputy mayor for public safety, on February 11 at a downtown restaurant, The Brew has learned.
Previously, Ramos had denied that he was looking to leave his $185,000-a-year job. Last Tuesday, he was named budget director for Harris County, Texas.
Schnitzer’s resignation as Scott’s $207,000-a-year safety advisor takes place amid a record surge of homicides in Baltimore and a vacant house fire that claimed the lives of three firefighters.
Her resignation has not yet been announced. She and the mayor’s communications office did not respond to a Brew request for comment.
UPDATE: Mayor’s office confirms Schnitzer’s departure – see statement below.
Others leaving the administration include:
• Calvin J. “Cal” Harris, who has returned to his native Missouri to work for St. Louis County after 10 months as Scott’s $158,000-a-year communications director.
• Deputy Communications Director Stefanie Mavronis also jettisoned her position in January, transferring to the Mayor’s Office of Neighborhood Safety and Engagement.
• Henry J. Raymond will retire as city director of finance in March. He has been in that position since 2014.
• Tisha S. Edwards, founding director of the Mayor’s Office of Children and Family Success, stepped down in October to join the Wes Moore gubernatorial campaign.
• Eboni Wimbish, Edwards’ deputy director, left in November. She previously served as chief of staff at the Baltimore Department of Transportation.
Faith Leach is acting director at Family Success, while Public Works Department spokesman James Bentley was named the mayor’s interim communications director.
Frustration in the Ranks
The spate of senior staff departures, coming just a year after Scott became mayor, underscores growing frustration among some political allies and employees with Scott and Chris Shorter, the city administrator he hired last January.
Scott is variously described as “disengaged,” “laid back” and “overwhelmed” by three supporters who are in contact with his office.
“Brandon has his heart in the right place, but there’s frustration – exasperation – among staff” – City Hall source.
“Brandon has his heart in the right place, but there’s frustration – exasperation – among staff about his ability to get things done,” said a source who asked for anonymity in exchange for candor.
Said another, “He’s isolated. He’s just doing the ribbon cutting and the happy talk. And now with crime and violence soaring, it’s putting God-awful pressure on his staff.”
A local elected official said, “Covid, covid, covid. That’s been the administration’s all-purpose excuse for the city’s problems. It’s getting old.”
This source echoed criticism of Shorter that’s been whispered for months among insiders at City Hall.
“Shorter was hired to get the trains to run on time, but nobody can figure out what he’s doing” – Elected Official.
“Chris Shorter was hired to get the trains to run on time, but nobody can figure out what he’s doing. He dresses down people at meetings, then he gets real quiet and accepts what they say. There’s no direction,” said an elected official, who cited erratic trash and recycling collection as an example of persistently poor management.
A department head complained that Shorter doesn’t respond to emails. “This leaves it to you to figure it out and, I guess, gives him plausible deniability.”
According to Scott’s office, Shorter has been busy.
He helped recruit top-level staff, including Public Works Director Jason Mitchell and Deputy Mayor Ted Carter, has headed a committee to develop teleworking rules for employees, is setting up a better job-review process, and reviews spending before the Board of Estimates and under the American Rescue Plan Act.
Over the summer, Shorter convinced Scott to hire EY, the former Ernst & Young, to provide $660,000 worth of consultant advice on analytic measures of city services.
Ramos’ departure marks the end of a very rapid rise by the now 30-year-old native of Los Angeles.
He started as an operations research analyst at the Fire Department in 2013, shortly after graduating with a degree in international relations from Johns Hopkins University, and rose through the budget office to become the highest-ranking Hispanic in local government.
With Ramos gone, Scott loses a hardworking and knowledgeable advisor on the budget and on performance management. He is about to earn his MBA degree from the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.
Ramos will be replaced by ChiChi Nyagah-Nash, who has moved from director of General Services to the city administrator’s office.
Schnitzer is a graduate of St. Mary’s College (Scott’s alma mater) and a former associate at the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) in Washington, D.C.
She served as deputy chief of staff under Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young.
After Scott became mayor in late 2020, he named Schnitzer deputy mayor for public safety, twinning her appointment with that of Ramos in a press release.
”Their expertise will be critical as we break out of silos and better coordinate our efforts, all while transforming the way we operate as a city,” Scott then said.
STATEMENT FROM MAYOR’S OFFICE:
”Sunny Schnitzer, Deputy Mayor for Public Safety, will be leaving the Mayor’s Office to take a position with the Federal Government at the Department of Justice. Sunny has served Baltimore City and its residents admirably over her many years of service, and we congratulate her on being recognized for her exemplary work in public safety. We know that she will continue to advocate for policies and practices that make Baltimore City a safer place to live, work and play. The City is actively looking for a replacement to fill this critical role.
“These are high-quality public servants who are all making vertical movements in their careers. One of the problems with hiring talented people is that eventually their talents are going to be recognized at a higher level and they are going to move on. However, we will continue to look for highly qualified and motivated people to fill these roles, because that’s what our city needs.”