When Ellen O. Does Our Bidding.....We Become Bitter ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When Ellen O. Does Our Bidding.....We Become Bitter

"We will eliminate the no-bid budget contracts that have wasted billions in Iraq."

President Obama in a speech to Congress, Feb. 24, 2009

There used to be a time when people had to competitively apply for city jobs, ensuring the taxpayers got the best person for their money. But things are different in the Moyer Administration where contracts are apparently given out based on who knows the mayor the best.
CP and our sister publication, The Arundel Muckraker, reviewed five no-bid consulting contracts the mayor doled out to friends and political supporters last year. (See the concurrently published companion piece to this at arundelmuckraker.com). For background, when CP began working for the City of Annapolis, it was on a contractual basis, for a position that had been called for repeatedly. I had to apply and compete for the position with other applicants. My task was straightforward as were details of my supervision. There were checks and balances, oversight and competition. After a couple of years in the job, it became a permanent, classified position--with city council budget approval of course.

Readers may be shocked to learn that a Diane Talbot of Eastport was offered two contracts to run the mayor's pet project "Rock for Youth" (RFY)--at a cost of $6,000 per month. The much-hyped RFY is led by crony-appointee, Tony Spencer, a retired firefighter which means he also gets a city pension and his salary as Moyer's Director of the Office of Youth and Community Affairs, a title she created. Spencer held a fund-raiser at his home for Mayor Moyer's first campaign (I was there when I supported her..but not the second time around). We understand that this contractor Diane Talbot did not work out and left, but has Mr. Spencer's RFY Campaign done anything? Spencer now even has a "Youth and Community Services Associate" in his office, possibly from funds never expended for Talbot. Spencer and his office could be the subjects of another article, but mention of it here adds to the court intrigue.

Moyer created entire departments for Mike Miron and Mike Malinoff so they could get the high-paying jobs to run them. What has resulted from having an Economic Affairs Department or Department of neighborhood and Environmental Protection? What has resulted from having a new classified and contractual positions devoted to trees, sustainability, environmental coordination, etc? I'm not saying the answer is not positive--but has it been worth the cost, and are the people she chose the best to do these jobs?

Last year, Moyer's appointee Karen Engelke, director of special projects or some such thing, sub-contracted a contract to her partner for $14,000. A couple of years ago, Moyer contracted with Crosby Communications and a former Chesapeake Bay Foundation employee to develop more of her pet projects such as the clean air initiative that resulted in those cutesy Cloud Nine cartoonish logos, something we never should have been involved with in the first place. The job to track all this down should be that of our local newspaper, but why would it want to investigate a big city contract to a local company that places a lot of advertising?

Chuck Weikel, the subject of some previous posts, and Steve Carr, two highly-political Democrats and friends of the mayor, got hired to take on a wide variety of projects, leading to all sorts of intrigue. Weikel was supposedly a "parking coordinator" at the same time another employee of the transportation department was also listed on the city's web-site as a parking coordinator. Did anybody notice any parking coordination improvements? All we have seen is a major loss of revenue at the Knighton Garage. Was that possibly due to some of Weikel's consulting or recommendations?

Carr is an outspoken, and highly visible figure working on all kinds of environmental and recreational projects. He gets a contract worth over 60K per year and acts as handmaiden to Ellen O. Carr could also be the subject of an article here for all the controversy and strong feelings he generates, but at least in my estimation, he works hard, is knowledgeable and responsive. I do not say he is effective or pleasant to work with, but he at least appears to provide services he is supposed to provide... when he is not arguing, venting or badmouthing other city employees, activists and elected officials.

Don Lamb-Minor, a one-term state delegate (who won by three votes...a Lambslide as it is known), now consults mainly in the political realm through his Democracy Group. Lamb-Minor heads up a consulting firm called The Democracy Group and The Minor Group, a firm he runs with his wife Hollis Minor. CP is friendly with Ms. Minor and has even collaborated with her to bid on at least two public-relations contracts. We were unsuccessful in securing those contracts, but at least we engaged in an appropriate bidding process. He has apparently dabbled in some sort of high tech. communications business which was once considered for a city contract (From what I can tell, it was discussed within the police dep't but there were "legal concerns" raised and it never materialized).

The Minor Group worked on the mayor's "Let's Talk Annapolis" series of discussions. I never understood the value of all this talk and find it disingenuous of this mayor to pretend that she champions civil discourse. I read the reports generated by the talking, finding little of value or import--just a lot of people spouting off opinions (that's not necessarily a bad thing, but what came of it?).

Now Don Lamb-Minor is serving as a special consultant for the mayor, and possibly even as acting city administrator since the "real" city administrator Bob Agee (can you say "sinecure") is serving as the director of public works. Minor gets $60k per year to ostensibly provide "oversight" to six capital projects. The lack of detail and clarity in the contract is astonishing. There is no detail or description. One must ask if within our 600-person bureaucracy (not to mention a city administrator), there are not enough people to provide oversight? And what the heck does this kind of oversight mean? By the way, Lamb-Minor also serves on the city's election board. Can you say conflict of interest???

Do Lamb-Minor or Carr or Weikel bring such a specific skill set that only they could take these jobs without going through a bid process? According to numerous sources, Minor has become deeply involved in Moyer's campaign to fight the city manager bill, attending all the various council-related meetings on this issue and he is seen at other functions as well. Anyone who takes on the de rigeur role of city administrator should be making more than $60k, so why is Minor spending so much time in so many positions other than providing "oversight" to capital projects? Minor's salary might possibly be paid for out of the salary that is not being paid to the director of public works, now being filled by Agee who also works at a lower salary that the director of DPW would receive (Why would he do that???). It appears that Mayor Moyer gets to appoint not one but two top-level administrators answerable to her without city council involvement or contract oversight.

City spokesperson Rhonda Wardlaw tells us:

"The contracts are viewed as employment for services (employees), and the Purchase Orders are merely the means to pay these employees. These employee contract were referred to the Department of Central Services for payment."

Pretty much any procurement except those for simply buying products (envelopes, paint, desks, etc.) could be construed to be for employment. Build a police station? That's employing people. Sign a lease for the Market House? That's for allowing people to work in your property. How far do you wish to stretch this? Normally when someone is hired, there is an application process, qualifications are reviewed, references are checked, people are interviewed, a position is offered and a contract is signed. Unless you are Ellen Moyer and then you can hire whoever you want to do whatever work you want. And where does she get the funds to do all of this? What about a budget approval process? Where is the city council? It seems that while there may be plenty of people doing oversight for the mayor, nobody is providing any oversight about the mayor for the people. (Well, some of us are trying, but....)

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Andrew Waldman said...

Are these contracts for employment services paying just a specific dollar amount or are those receiving them getting retirement and health benefits, as well?

Paul Foer said...

Andrew I do not know. Call Ellen and ask her....but don't expect a response...we did not find information about that as I recall.

Anonymous said...

What happens to these "jobs" when there is new boss is elected in November? Assuming it's not someone that wants to continue "pay for play".

Jim Conley

Paul Foer said...

Again...I dunno.....ask Ellen O!

John said...

Unless the contracts are long term (which it does not seem they are) they likely will terminate if the new Mayor wants them to.

If these people are considered contractual employees they are "at will" and can (and hopefully will) be terminated when the new Mayor takes office.

One would hope...

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