Official in middle of the Ag Center scandal remains on Baltimore County payroll, earning over $110,000
A campaign bundler for two county executives and Councilwoman Cathy Bevins’ treasurer, Chris McCollum’s ties to county Democrats run deep
Above: Chris MCollum poses beside a bag of beans during the Ag Center’s ill-fated attempt to supply fresh crops for soup kitchens and homeless shelters. (Facebook)
A political insider at the center of an investigation into corrupt activities at the Baltimore County Ag Center has received full pay since his termination last summer.
William “Chris” McCollum resigned last July 2 following reports by Inspector General Kelly Madigan of unauthorized purchases and wasteful spending at the Ag Center while he was its director.
Since then, McCollum has gotten $111,226.92 by tapping into 152 days of so-called “earned sick leave,” Dori Henry, deputy chief of staff for County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr., said today, confirming a report by Fox45 News.
McCollum so far has used 152 sick days, according to Henry, and is on track to receive his full salary for several months to come.
Identified by The Brew as a financial bundler for both Olszewski and former County Executive Jim Smith, McCollum appears to have taken few, if any, sick days as a county employee.
County officials declined to provide further information except to say that McCollum, now 51, is vested in the county pension system, which makes his reported use of sick leave to continue getting the equivalent of his prior salary even odder.
His pension – fattened by his earned sick pay – “will be calculated when he is eligible to retire and submits his required paperwork,” Henry said.
Rising in County Government
Starting out in 2002 as a low-level revitalization specialist in the Department of Economic Development, McCollum got his big break in 2010 when he was appointed director of the newly created Ag Center on Shawan Road by then County Executive Smith.
In 2014, McCollum became treasurer of Smith’s Baltimore County Victory Slate, which dispensed over $500,000 in campaign cash to favored candidates, including a $100,000 loan to former Mayor Catherine Pugh and nearly $300,000 to Vicki Almond during her run as county executive. Current members of the slate include County Council members Julian E. Jones Jr., Cathy Bevins and Tom Quirk, Speaker of the House of Delegates Adrienne A. Jones (D., 10th), and Baltimore City Councilman Eric Costello.
After Almond lost to Olszewski in the 2018 Democratic primary, the Victory Slate and McCollum switched allegiance and started funneling campaign funds to Olszewski.
Following long-rumored indiscretions at the Ag Center, Olszewski transferred McCollum back to the development department. (He is still listed in campaign records as residing at the home of his former Ag Center assistant.)
In 2020, he was named acting director of economic and workforce development by Olszewski. When a permanent director was appointed, McCollum became a senior assistant to County Administrative Officer Stacy Rodgers as well as deputy economic development director.
McCollum was also campaign treasurer and close friend of 6th District Councilwoman Bevins, traveling with her to Las Vegas to attend the fabled Maryland Party, where county and city politicians mixed with developers pre-Covid during the International Council of Shopping Centers convention.
After McCollum’s lavish spending at the Ag Center was documented by the inspector general, which included $514 for women’s boots and $1,800 for a snow blower, Councilwoman Bevins lashed out at Madigan.
“This is Baltimore County,” she instructed the IG at a budget hearing, “and I think that you need to just get more comfortable with some of the policies and procedures that happen here in the county. And if you disagree, I have a problem with that.”