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Henry Introduces New Ethics Rule For City Spending Board

Emily Sullivan/WYPR

Members of Baltimore’s spending board who abstain from a vote because of a perceived conflict of interest will have to explain their abstentions under a new ethics rule proposed by Comptroller Bill Henry.

Under the old rules, members of the Board of Estimates were expected to refrain from voting on issues that presented conflicts of interest and send a memo to the Comptroller’s office saying they would abstain. Under the new rule, which went into effect Wednesday as the newest members of the board met for the first time, members have to explain why they’re abstaining in that memo.

The Comptroller’s office will then assemble and post online a list of the abstentions and reasons behind them.

"This policy takes the current practice of abstaining one step further by requiring reasons for abstention and making the list readily available," Henry said in a statement. "This is the first of many policies to come to make the board more transparent and accessible.

The Baltimore City Board of Ethics, led by Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming, approved the new rule. Board members voted unanimously to pass it.

The Board of Estimates is chaired by City Council President Nick Mosby, who was sworn in last week. Henry, previously a city councilman, is the board’s second new member.

Mayor Brandon Scott, previously City Council President, still serves on the board. Acting City Solicitor Dana Moore and Acting Department of Public Works Director Matthew Garbark have also retained their positions on the board amid recent City Hall transitions.

Mayors have traditionally controlled the board, as they appoint the two non-elected offices. Moore and Garbark were appointed by former mayor Jack Young.


Emily Sullivan is a city hall reporter at WYPR, where she covers all things Baltimore politics. She joined WYPR after reporting for NPR’s national airwaves. There, she was a reporter for NPR’s news desk, business desk and presidential conflicts of interest team. Sullivan won a national Edward R. Murrow Award for an investigation into a Trump golf course's finances alongside members of the Embedded team. She has also won awards from the Chesapeake Associated Press Broadcasters Association for her use of sound and feature stories. She has provided news analysis on 1A, The Takeaway, Here & Now and All Things Considered.