IMMEDIATE NEED for CALL TO ACTION
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.
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.
13 thoughts on “IMMEDIATE CALL TO ACTION! Regarding lobbyists being appointed to county commission”
I am in AGREEMENT with Mr. Kach There should not be Lobbyists on the Commission. There is a very real chance of conflict of interest (not necessarily in favor of residents of the area) I believe anyone who serves in this role should have no chance of outside conflict of interest to provide the most unbiased view to revise the charter
It appears to me that, in forming the Baltimore Co. Charter Review Commission, there was no rule that excluded those with conflicts of interest. This was an invitation to those with conflicts of interest to be appointed. Now the Commission is set to undermine the will of the voters. The rules need to be amended.
I agree wholeheartedly with your withdrawal of support for the resolution/commission, as it is shaping up to be populated with many lobbyists. I would strongly encourage other council members to do the same. Please represent us, the VOTERs and members of this community, not the lobbyists!
I agree wholeheartedly that the rules for appointment to the Council need to be amended to exclude those members with a potential conflict of interest. That was not the intent of the original referendum. Thank you for withdrawing your support and making your constituents aware of this.
This is ridiculous! I am not surprised with Kevin’s appointments, because he is raising money to run for Governor. But the various Council members are making deals with the devil; they need to read Faust. The Devil takes his due. At some point they’ll anger the developers and their lawyers.
We simply need to proscribe any person, lawyer or lobbyist who has had an interest before the Council in the last three years from membership on any County commission.
I agree with your sentiment. There is, AT THE VERY LEAST, an appearance of potential impropriety with these nominees. We should strive for impartiality with these appointments. Why was this whole matter kept “secret” until the last minute? Voters are tired with “business as usual”. Let’s see if we can get legitimate impartiality in this commission. There is no reason, from the voters perspective, to go through this County Charter review process just to turn this into a “rubber stamp” for the developers. This smacks of a return to S. Agnew / D. Anderson era politics.
The Charter is meant to govern the activities of the Baltimore County government for ALL residents not just developers with easy access to the County Council. The commissioners should be independent from the council members and from any company or group who is actively seeking a decision from the Council.
It is also not intuitive that the entire commission must consist solely of attorneys. Wise people with diverse experience and backgrounds will bring reasonable guidance to the charter review process.
Yet another dilution of “government of the people, by the people, for the people…”
The answers are always there to be found. Just follow the money.
No lobbyists should be a part of Baltimore County Charter Review Commission. By definition they have an inherent conflict of interest.
No Lobbyist on the Baltimore County Charter Review Commission. This is a conflict of interest, plain and simple.
Thank you Wade for your intelligent and ethical reasoning to withdraw your support and sponsorship of the resolution establishing the membership of the commission.
It is very sad indeed to see District 2 and 6 Councilwomen propose lobbyists to the Commission – the County Executives appointments are no surprise and predictable.
Question: do the rules of the Commission require members be attorneys? If yes, then the rules should be amended to allow otherwise and should definitely be amended to prohibit lobbyists as members as they clearly have their own agenda, which may not consistently benefit the best interests of the public.