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Council President Scott Introduces Charter Amendment Removing Mayoral Appointees from the Board of Estimates

Council President Scott Introduces Charter Amendment Removing Mayoral Appointees from the Board of Estimates

Board Would Be Comprised of Three Elected Members, Each With Votes of Equal Weight

 

BALTIMORE, MD (January 28, 2020) — After first announcing his plans to reduce the size of the Board of Estimates to  in his July 2019 legislative and policy proposal, Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott introduced a charter amendment that would remove the City Solicitor and Department of Public Works Director from the Board of Estimates at last evening's City Council meeting. If successful, this charter amendment would reduce the five-member body to its three elected members.

“The public has entrusted us to do the work of cleaning up city government so that we have a governmental structure that is less prone to corruption, more efficient, and more supportive of our local communities,” said Council President Scott. “Reducing the Board of Estimates to the three elected members, all with equal weight to approve or reject City contracts involving taxpayer dollars, is one way we can do that.”

Currently, the Board of Estimates is comprised of five members: the Comptroller, Mayor, City Solicitor, DPW Director, and City Council President, who chairs the Board. Only the Mayor, City Council President, and Comptroller are elected by Baltimore voters. In Baltimore City, all agency heads are appointed by the Mayor, including the City Solicitor and DPW Director.

Thus, many have critiqued the Board of Estimates as a “rubber stamp” for the Mayor’s Office, rather than a necessary check-and-balance on how taxpayer dollars are spent. 

In April 2019, concerns about theBoard of Estimates being prone to self-dealing and corruption were illuminated when it was revealed that former Mayor Pugh did not recuse herself from a vote on a $48 million contract between the City and Kaiser Permanente, who had purchased children’s books from the former Mayor. 

“The Board of Estimates approves over half a billion dollars in city government contracts for goods and services every year. A body that determines how such a significant amount of taxpayer dollars are being spent has to be rooted in pure democracy. Today, that is not the case,” continued the Council President

“Currently, if the Mayor wants a contract before the Board to be approved, it will be approved — even when my questions are unanswered and even when the public has serious concerns. That’s not transparent, nor is it in the public’s interest. The only thing that can change this dynamic is structural change that transforms how we do business here in Baltimore.” 

“Baltimoreans want responsible changes to ensure that their government will not continue to be outdated or allow questionable practices to flourish. This summer during my nine community town halls, we heard from residents who clearly did not believe the City Solicitor or DPW Director should be deciding how their tax dollars were being spent. Yet, they were very clear that they want to hold their elected officials accountable.”

“I look forward to working with my colleagues on the City Council to pass this charter amendment. Baltimoreans can make their voice heard at the hearings on this bill and on the November ballot. This concerns how our government can be structured to build a more equitable, transparent, and functional city,” said the Council President.

Reducing the size of the Board of Estimates was one of 26 proposals the Council President identified in his Legislative and Policy Agenda released in July 2019. The public can follow along with progress on that agenda using the Council President’s Legislative and Policy Tracker.

Read the legislation, “Charter Amendment - Board of Estimates - Composition” (20-0489), here.

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