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More political wrangling over BGE conduit deal at Baltimore’s City’s Board of Estimates meeting

Courtesy of CharmTV
Wednesday marks the first full Board of Estimates meeting after a public disagreement over the city's conduit deal with BGE last month.

Although there was no vote at Wednesday’s Board of Estimates meeting, four of the five members of Baltimore’s City’s Board of Estimates delivered strong remarks on the recent deal.

Without explaining why, the Clerk to the Board of Estimates this morning announced that the vote on the conduit deal would be pushed back to April 5.

The controversial agreement has Baltimore Gas and Electric paying Baltimore City $1.5 million annually for rent and $134 million in capital improvements.

Prior to this agreement, the city collected rental fees from all users and made its own repairs to the aging conduit.

Last month, Mayor Brandon Scott and his two appointees approved the deal, while Council President Nick Mosby and Comptroller Bill Henry refused to attend that meeting in protest in hopes of deferring the vote.

Shortly after, Comptroller Henry added the item back to the Board of Estimates agenda. Since all five members didn’t show, there was no quorum which is what’s needed for a vote, Henry asserts. But the Mayor Scott administration claims that three members was sufficient for quorum.

Courtesy of CharmTV
Council President Mosby told his fellow board members he is still not sold on the conduit agreement between the city & BGE.

Today's Meeting
Council president, Nick Mosby, opened the remarks saying the spending board’s current function needs to be evaluated.

“The way this entire situation has been handled, is nothing more than a power grab,” Mobsy said. “[It’s] a move to suit the interests of private industry.”

Later on, Mayor Scott responded by defending the deal.

“If there was a better deal to be done, that deal would have been done,” Scott said. “Had we delayed any longer, we would have denied our residents and ratepayers over $50 million in savings.”

Courtesy of CharmTV
Mayor Scott expressed his disappointment over the Council President and Comptroller boycotting the last meeting. "We must show up for our residents," said Scott.

He also chided Henry and Mosby for their absence at the Feb. 15 meeting.

“We have to do what we're required to do,” Scott said. “And that means show up for our residents every day. What transpired on the February 15th BOE did not meet that leadership that we deserve here in Baltimore. We deserve a board that shows up and has the tough conversations.”

But Henry, a former Baltimore City council member turned elected comptroller, resisted those claims.

“It’s clear we have reached a point where we just have to agree to disagree,” Henry said and continued to defend the absence of both him and Mosby.

Courtesy of CharmTV
Baltimore City Comptroller Bill Henry defended the absence of both him and Mosby from the BOE's Feb. 15 meeting.

In contrast, Department of Public Works Director, Jason Mitchell remained silent, only offering ayes and nays during votes.

But Acting City Solicitor, Ebony Thompson, insisted the Feb 15. vote was valid.

“The intentional absences were correctly treated as abstentions,” Thompson said. “To simply allow an absence to thwart city business would deem all of these rules absolutely meaningless. There would be no need to ever cancel a meeting or defer a meeting if you could simply just not show up.”

Courtesy of CharmTV
Acting City Solicitor, Ebony Thompson, insists the Feb 15. vote was valid.

Wambui Kamau is a General Assignment Reporter for WYPR. @WkThee
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