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Inspector General: Baltimore County’s council chairman paved the way to fix alley for business owner

An alley in Towson between commercial properties was fixed by county taxpayer money, something the county auditor says was against the rules.
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An alley in Towson between commercial properties was fixed by county taxpayer money, something the county auditor says was against the rules.

Baltimore County’s Inspector General found that top government officials helped a Towson businessman get a commercial alleyway paved on the county’s dime, according to a report released on Thursday morning. The cost of the project was $69,000. In a response, County Executive Johnny Olszewski’s administration disputed the inspector general’s finding, saying it “unequivocally does not concur with many of the conclusions” in the report.

The county has a program in which it will repair alleys in residential areas if they meet certain requirements.

Inspector General Kelly Madigan said the alley in downtown Towson does not qualify for that program. She said it’s a commercial alley. It’s surrounded by properties owned by one undisclosed person and a church.

“There is no public benefit here, and our report showed that this alley was done over the objection of the subject matter experts within the Department of Public Works and Transportation,” Madigan said in an interview. “I think the question is, common sense, was this a good use of taxpayer dollars?”

Madigan said County Council Chairman Julian Jones and County Administrative Officer Stacey Rodgers intervened to help get the project the green light.

In an interview, Chairman Jones said, “I’ve done nothing wrong. I work hard every day as a public servant and literally assist hundreds of people, if not thousands of people on issues all of the time.

Jones also questioned Madigan’s assertion that the alley is privately owned.

“The county owns the alley,” Jones said.

Baltimore County does not typically maintain alleys as it does roadways, according to the county transportation department.

Mid-Atlantic Properties, a private property development and management business owns buildings along the alley identified in the report. A representative for Mid-Atlantic was not immediately available for comment for this story.

Mid-Atlantic's president Wayne Gioioso and the company itself are political donors to Baltimore County candidates, records pulled by The Baltimore Banner show. In 2021, Mid-Atlantic donated $5,000 to councilman Jones' campaign in addition to $2,500 from Gioioso himself. As recently as April Gioioso made an in-kind contribution to Jones' reelection campaign worth $561 for "Ryleigh's Oyster", according to campaign finance data.

Madigan said Jones made a couple of calls on behalf of the project, including to the acting director of the Department of Public Works and Transportation.

“That request was ultimately forwarded to the county administrative officer where it was approved,” Madigan said.

She said two senior Department of Public Works and Transportation employees raised their concerns about it to their department head “and one of the employees demanded to be excused from the project.”

In her response to Madigan’s report, Rodgers questioned why Madigan did not interview her for the investigation. Rodgers said the project did qualify for county funding, saying the money can be used “to reconstruct all degraded alleys in the county.”

But in her own response to Rodgers, Madigan fired back that that is not the case. Her response included a screenshot from the county’s website, which spells out the Alley Reconstruction Program is to be used for alleys “located in a residential, non-commercial community.”

Rodgers did not return a request for comment. Erica Palmisano, Olszewski's press secretary, said Rodgers' written response to Madigan "speaks for itself."

This is not the first time County Administrative Officer Rodgers has taken issue with a report from the inspector general.

In April, Madigan released a report that the county had inadvertently missed giving 838 of its employees a promised 2% raise. In response, Rodgers questioned whether Madigan had the authority to look into what was an operational snafu. Madigan countered at the time that part of her job is to provide accountability and oversight of county government.

This is the second time this year that Chairman Jones finds himself part of an inspector general’s investigation.

In March, Madigan released a report that Jones violated the county’s electronic communications policy when he put a donate button on an email that used a county email address. Jones said it was an honest mistake and Madigan’s investigation went too far.

John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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