IMMEDIATE CALL TO ACTION! Regarding lobbyists being appointed to county commission


Regarding lobbyist appointments to the Baltimore County Charter Review Commission by members of the County Council

As you may be aware the voters in 2016 approved the creation of the Baltimore County Charter Review Commission. Each Councilmember has one appointment and the County Executive has two appointments to the commission. The current chairman of the Baltimore County Council names the chairman of the commission.

Background on the commission:

The Baltimore County Charter Review Commission was approved by Baltimore County voters by referendum in the November 2016 election. It calls for the creation of a commission every 10 years to review the County Charter and to make recommendations to the Council to make local government more responsive to the interests and concerns of the public.

The Baltimore County Charter is the foundational document which establishes and enumerates the constitutional responsibilities and separations of power for the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of Baltimore County. This commission will have broad authority to recommend changes to the way the County conducts its business. Issues such as land use, development rights, ethics reform, taxation, and spending will be front and center when this commission convenes.

I cosponsored the resolution calling for its creation and had always been in full support of this periodic review commission, however as the result of the issues that I address here, I MUST immediately withdraw my support and sponsorship of the resolution establishing the membership of the commission. Because the issues that the commission will confront are so important and so sensitive, it is vital to make sure that members of the commission are unencumbered by conflicts of interest.  With this in mind, it is deeply disappointing to note that several proposed members of the commission are lobbyists with issues presently before the Council.

Below is a list of the current proposed appointments:
Councilmatic District 1: John V. Murphy, Esq., attorney with Murphy & Murphy, former Baltimore County Councilman
Councilmatic District 2: John B. Gontrum, Esq., attorney with Whiteford, Taylor and Preston | LOBBYIST
Councilmatic District 3: Netta Pray, Esq., Retired Baltimore County Attorney
Councilmatic District 4: James R. Benjamin, Jr., Esq., attorney with Pessin Katz Law
Councilmatic District 5: Antonio (Tony) Campbell, former Baltimore County Republican Central Committee Chairman
Councilmatic District 6: Michael Paul Smith, Esq., attorney with Smith, Gildea & Schmidt | LOBBYIST
Councilmatic District 7: William A. McComas, Esq., attorney with Bowie and Jensen
County Executive appointees:
1. Edward Gilliss, Esq., attorney with Royston Mueller, McLean & Reid, former Baltimore County Attorney | LOBBYIST
2. David H. Karceski, Esq., Attorney with Venable | LOBBYIST
I have had my name removed as a sponsor of the resolution establishing the membership of the Commission. I cannot in good conscience support a commission comprised of a large number of lobbyists who are currently on retainer with special interests that currently have issues before the County Government. These special interests focus mostly on land use issues which comprise a large portion of the day to day operations of local government.

There is no doubt that these individuals have first hand knowledge of the workings of County Government. This knowledge could be helpful to the commission. However, in my opinion their membership on the Commission is a clear conflict of interest (see extensive additional information on individual conflicts of interest and lobbying activities below).

If you agree and think this is of concern, please respond to this email, share with your neighbors, share on social media, attend our public meetings to voice your concerns, post in our online comments,  and please contact the other members of the Council (click here)  with your opinion. There is little time to let your voice be heard.

Thank you for your time and efforts,~ Wade


Information on existing lobbying efforts, conflicts of interest, and areas of influence regarding proposed lobbyist appointees

To better understand each lobbyist’s current lobbying specialties, career and client entanglements, and information that contributes to Councilman Kach’s belief that they should be disqualified due to conflict of interest, explore the information and links that follow:

John B. Guntrum, Esq. Partner of Whiteford, Taylor and Preston:

Taken from Mr. Gontrum’s official biography, ” Mr. Gontrum is director of the Towson office of the firm and is co-chairman of the Real Estate Section and also the Real Estate Development, Leasing and Land Use Industry Group.  He has over 50 years of experience representing industrial, commercial and residential developers, businesses, institutions and individuals on a wide variety of land use, zoning and development issues.  His practice concentrates on Baltimore County land use and development with particular attention to issues arising in eastern Baltimore County and waterfront development.” Read his entire firm profile here.

In 2016 the NAIOP Commecial Real Estate Development Association, Maryland Chapter awarded Mr. Gontrum the chapter’s Government Relations Distinguished Service Award. Click here to see a complete list. For further examples of how the NAIOP seeks lobbying assistance to move projects forward, click here.

Michael Paul Smith, Esq. of Smith, Gildea & Schmidt:

Taken from Mr. Smith’s official firm biography and profile, ” Mr. Smith has been instrumental in numerous political campaigns. He successfully managed his father’s 2002 race for Baltimore County Executive and re-election in the 2006 and was a close advisor on the 2010 County Executive race and four of the successful Baltimore County Council candidates. Mr. Smith has also advised many current Delegates and County Council Members with respect to their campaigns.” Read his entire firm profile here.

Additional references to Mr. Smith’s conflicts and entanglements:

“Democratic candidates in three Baltimore County Council races have raised about half their money in events held for them by two lawyers who work for land developers, a phenomenon their opponents say shows special interests have too much influence in local elections.” Click here for full article.

“A single lobbyist or PR firm is not enough to influence important public policy decisions,” said Beegle. “I collaborate with professionals who understand this shift and that working smarter, not harder, involves building alliances, engaging voters and taking advantage of new media.”
Beegle, who served as chief of staff to former Baltimore County Executive and current Maryland Department of Transportation Sec. James T. Smith Jr., will run her business from an office within the Towson law firm of Smith, Gildea & Schmidt.

Michael Paul Smith, the son of the former county executive, and David Gildea, who was once law clerk to Jim Smith when he served as a Baltimore County Circuit Court Judge, are partners in the law firm.” Click here for full article.

Edward Gilliss, Esq. of Royston, Mueller, Mclean & Reid:

Taken from Mr. Gilliss’ official firm biography and profile – ” His practice areas capitalize on his various professional experiences, civic participation, and firsthand knowledge of Baltimore County government. Civil litigation, including real estate development, title insurance, zoning and liquor licensing issues, as well as general representation of restaurants and other corporate entities, are a major part of his broad practice.” See full firm profile here.

David H. Karceski, Esq. Partner of Venable, LLC:

Taken from Mr. Karceski’s official firm biography and profile, ” David Karceski is a member of the firm’s State and Local Government Practice Group and counsels the firm’s clients on real estate development and zoning and land use matters.Mr. Karceski assists local, regional and national clients in obtaining legislative, administrative and regulatory approvals during all phases of development and permitting processes in Baltimore City and Baltimore County.  The types of projects Mr. Karceski has been involved with include transit-oriented developments, mixed-use town centers, industrial and office parks, institutional campus improvements, multi-family communities and residential subdivisions, and a variety of commercial and retail projects.” Click here to review his full firm bio and profile.

Click here to link to related news articles circulated by his firm, related to his clients and lobbying on their behalf.

Click here for a list of clients currently being reported to the House of Representatives, as represented by Venable for lobbying purposes.