On Monday afternoon, per usual, the City Council President’s Office emailed out the agenda for this morning’s Board of Estimates meeting.
What made this routine distribution unusual was that the final agenda, as issued by President Nick Mosby’s office, was fully 50 pages less than the preliminary agenda issued six days earlier by Comptroller Bill Henry.
Not only were quite a few procurement contracts missing – for example, sodium bisulfites and continental blowers for the water bureau and baby diapers for a health department provider – but this:
Travel requests by Mayor Brandon Scott, Council President Mosby and five other City Hall officials to mix and mingle with developers at the International Council of Shopping Centers (ISCS) convention in Las Vegas later this month.
Mosby had requested $12,585 for himself and three Council allies – Mark Conway, Eric Costello and Sharon Green Middleton – while Scott wanted $9,107 to cover himself and two aides to make the journey to Vegas following the Preakness Race at Pimlico on May 20.
“Disregard yesterday’s email”
When questioned, Mosby’s office would not acknowledge that a mistake was made in distributing the agenda without the travel requests.
The aide who sent out the erroneous agenda simply said to “disregard yesterday’s email,” while Aaron DeGraffenreidt, general counsel to Mosby, provided a link to the correct document from the comptroller’s office without explanation.
Regardless of their provenance, the travel requests will come before the board this morning.
Mosby and Scott are likely to abstain, and mayoral appointees Ebony Thompson and Jason Mitchell to approve the expenditures.
The wild card is Comptroller Henry, who typically abstains from voting on travel requests, saying that voters, not he, should determine whether a colleague’s travel requests are in the public interest.
UPDATE: All of the travel requests were approved today. Scott and Mosby got around Henry’s abstentions by abstaining from their own requests, but OKing the other requests. “I’m abstaining on my own travel request, just mine,” Scott announced, which meant that Mosby, Thompson and Mitchell voted “yes,” while Scott and Henry abstained. In Mosby’s case, Scott, Thompson and Mitchell approved, while Mosby and Henry abstained.
Mayor Scott’s goal at the ICSC this year is the same as he described in 2022: to pitch the business opportunities available in Baltimore to real estate professionals from around the country.
“Priorities include attracting office tenants, grocery stores and other retail opportunities,” the mayor says.
Mosby has listed the very same objectives: “attracting office tenants, new residential construction, grocery stores and other retail opportunities.”
Neither official has presented information about any grocery, retail and office tenants lured to Baltimore by their efforts.
Scott, Mosby and the other electeds will be talking up Baltimore while residing in luxury rooms at the Wynn and Encore Resort.
Because the Wynn’s rates are so much more than the GSA’s per-diem location rate for Las Vegas ($349 a night vs. $120), all seven officials are requesting $229 more a day for board and $69 a day for meals and incidentals.
The total $21,692 travel bill doesn’t include the expenses incurred by the Baltimore Development Corporation, which is sending its own contingent to the Las Vegas Convention Center to promote the city.
To stay at the Wynn Resort, Scott, Mosby and the others are each requesting $229 more a day for board and $69 a day for meals and incidentals.
As a quasi-public organization, BDC’s expenses for travel and for serving as a sponsor of the Maryland Party, the elaborate bash held at the Wynn by Owings Mills real estate executive Howard L. Perlow, are not publicly available.
BDC President Colin Tarbert did not respond to questions.
Also silent was Councilwoman Middleton, whose travel request to the BOE does not include the $795 ICSC registration fee.
As chairman of the City Council’s Economic and Community Development Committee, Middleton would appear to be most relevant person to attend the ICSC’s professional development workshops and analytic seminars.
The Brew asked if she was skipping the convention itself, and instead hanging out at the Wynn’s poolside cabanas a mile and a half from the Las Vegas Convention Center.
So far, she has not replied.
ICSC CONVENTION TRAVEL REQUESTS:
Mayor Brandon Scott – 3 days – $2,905.
Council President Nick Mosby – 4 days – $3,124.
Councilman Mark Conway – 3 days – $2,972.*
Councilman Eric Costello – 6 days – $4,061.**
Councilwoman Sharon Middleton – 4 days – $2,428.
Deputy Mayor Justin Williams – 4 days – $3,041.
Assistant Deputy Mayor Elizabeth Koontz – 4 days – $3,161.
* Conway’s travel breakdown adds up to $2,972, but is listed in the board agenda as $2,428.
** “Mr. Costello will be arriving 2 days before the conference for pre-conference meetings and leaving the day after due to the agenda times, conference location and available flights,” says the board agenda.