Mayor Scott calls out “petty politics” and stands behind Faith Leach as city administrator.
In what could only politely be called a “contentious” meeting on Thursday night, one that included shouting and clapping, a Baltimore city council committee rejected Scott’s nominee, Faith Leach, for the job of city administrator.
Mayor Brandon Scott made it clear to reporters on Friday morning that he is not planning on going back to the drawing board to find a new candidate: instead, he will work with City Council President Nick Mosby to get Leach confirmed.
“City Administrator Leach is one of the most dedicated public servants that I have ever had the pleasure of serving with,” said Scott. “I want to be extremely clear when I say this: this phenomenal Black woman is overqualified to be the city administrator of Baltimore City.”
Leach has been Acting City Administrator since January, and will stay as such for now since the Rules and Legislative Oversight Committee failed to confirm her for the full-time position in a 4-2 vote. As per city ordinance, the city administrator is appointed by the mayor and confirmed by council members.
Scott said he and Mosby would “work in partnership” to make sure Leach is confirmed but did not elaborate on how or answer questions from the press. Instead, he chided the dissenting councilmembers and what he called “petty politics”.
“What happened last night in the committee is not how we solve the problems we have in recruiting talented people to serve people of Baltimore and not how we show a good faith effort in being partners in government to move forward,” said Scott. “We know the people of Baltimore deserve better than what we had last night.”
Leach did not attend the press conference.
On Monday night the whole city council will meet and review the unfavorable recommendation from the House Rules and Oversight Committee. Speaking with reporters after the conference, Councilwoman Odette Ramos, whose district includes Coldstream Homestead Montebello, explained that the whole council will have to vote on the decision. If the council votes against that recommendation, the door remains open for Leach to be confirmed as city administrator.
Ramos is an ardent supporter of Leach and Ramos voted in favor of her Thursday night.
“If I was treated the way she was last night, I don’t know that I’d stick around,” Ramos said Friday. “But I think that she would be a great asset to our city.”
By law, Baltimore must have a city administrator. That law, introduced by Scott in 2020, was overwhelmingly approved by over three-quarters of voters. It created a non-voting government position for someone who would take over the nitty gritty daily aspects of governance.
Leach is a former deputy mayor of health, equity and human services– she’s been filling the role temporarily since the city’s first ever city administrator, Chris Shorter, left last fall. Baltimoreans know Leach as a creator in the squeegee ban, which banned squeegee kids from stopping motorists at six city intersections, and as a creator behind the guaranteed income pilot program that gives $1000 to 200 young local parents.
What happened during the Rules and Legislative Oversight Committee?
Things started out rather routine; the members of the committee had generally glowing things to say about Leach’s professionalism.
But things got heated when it came to the vote and it became clear that the committee members had problems with the administration that went beyond Leach.
“This vote is not about you,” Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton said to Leach. “I don’t understand this position. ... This city is in disarray.”
Her job tasks her with overseeing city bureaucracy: including leading the city’s nearly 12,500 person staff while also overseeing challenges like water billing and recycling collection. Those were things for which she came under fire when Chairman Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer, who represents Mt. Washington and Resisterstown, asked her about a plan to resume weekly city recycling services. Those are currently bi-weekly due to staffing shortages.
Leach didn’t have a firm answer to that question but pointed to possibilities like using private contractors to help with pick up. “Those are all the things I want to analyze,” she said. “I want to ensure what we roll out is valuable and sustainable for this city.”
Councilmember Mark Conway of District 4 (Pen Lucy, Kenilworth) said it was a “pleasure” working with Leach but ultimately voted against her too.
Councilmember Eric Costello, representing west and downtown neighborhoods including Fed Hill and Upton, was the final dissent who voted against Leach. Costello voted virtually due to a family emergency– opposing councilmembers thought his virtual vote should be invalidated.
Councilmember Ramos called Leach’s opposition “irresponsible”, a statement met with cheers and clapping from Leach’s family in the audience.
Councilmember James Torrence of District 7 (Penn North, Hampden) joined Ramos in support of Leach with emotional and fiery words for his colleagues.
“They change the rules when it suits them. This is election season grandstanding at best.”
And with that, he left the building.