Republican former Gov. Robert Ehrlich was unable to respond to a Capital News Service inquiry last week about the appointment of Frank Kratovil, the Democratic candidate in the 1st Congressional District, to the State Board of Victims Services.
Kratovil, running against Republican state Sen. Andy Harris, has been citing the appointment as evidence of his bipartisanship, a claim a CNS article questioned because the position automatically is picked by a particular lawyers’ group, which Kratovil headed at the time.
Now more evidence the CNS inquiry was on target.
Ehrlich left a message for this CNS reporter over the weekend saying he “never directly appointed Kratovil to anything.” He just signed the appointment letter as it crossed his desk.
Advocates for people with developmental disabilities rally to ask the Board of Public Works to spare the Developmental Disabilities Administration from budget cuts. (CNS Photo by Jessica Groover)
On his way into Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting where he and the other members approved more than $345 million in cuts to the current state budget, Gov. Martin O’Malley walked through the middle of a rally of advocates for individuals with developmental disabilities.
The group was trying to change the governor’s mind about cutting funds from the Developmental Disabilities Administration’s budget that would reduce money for community-based programs.
Armed with colorful signs, the group shouted, “Cut DDA, no way!” and “Save DDA!”
The governor told some of the rally participants that he and the Board of Public Works were going to do the best they could, and asked for their patience and prayers.
“Bear with us, we’re going to try and get through this with as little pain as possible,” O’Malley said.
Their request was not answered. The Board of Public Works passed the cut, from a 2.7 percent increase in rates for community providers, to a 2 percent increase.
Laura Howell, executive director for the Maryland Association of Community Services for Persons with Disabilities Inc., said the cut may not seem like much, but that it would greatly affect people with developmental disabilities and those who serve them every day.
She said the increase in provider rates is needed because of the higher prices for food, utilities and gas that are required for community-based services, like driving people with developmental disabilities to day programs.
Because of the cuts passed Wednesday, community-based providers will now have to make cuts of their own, which will be difficult since they have been underfunded in the past, Howell said.
“I think we did a lot of the work today trying to raise awareness,” Howell said. “We’ll have to see how everything plays out.”
As O’Malley left to attend the meeting, the group thanked him for a decision he made in January.
They shouted, “Thank you for closing Rosewood,” referring to the center for people with developmental disabilities the governor ordered closed by July 2009.
Seconds later, they resumed their shouts again with, “Cut DDA, no way!”
If a government agency holds an open forum, normally this means anyone can walk in, at any time and for any reason, to watch. It also means that audience members are not usually thrust into the spotlight by an official on the dais, who stops the hearing and asks them to identify themselves.
Unless, of course, it’s the Maryland pension board.
At a State Retirement and Pension System hearing Friday morning, Mansco Perry III, the chief investment officer, briefly stopped the meeting after learning a Capital News Service reporter was there. He “found out” after a woman, who appeared to be a pension system staff member, passed the hearing’s sign-in sheet to the dais.
Held on the 16th floor of a downtown Baltimore high-rise, in the pension system’s main office, the hearing was supposed to look at personnel issues. Instead, for roughly a minute, the focus shifted to the CNS reporter in the back, who was quietly taking notes and, periodically, taking a swig from his water bottle.
“Excuse me, but I’m not sure we’ve identified who the gentleman in the back is,” said a flustered Perry, looking my direction.
On occasion, public forums require audience members to sign in, so I did. I wrote my full name, contact information and the news outlet I represent. But in my experience no one has ever stopped a hearing to ask me, or anyone else in the audience, to identify themselves before the congregation.
“My name is Eli Segall, and I’m a reporter with Capital News Service,” I said, “and it’s my understanding this is a public meeting.”
The board members backpedaled, agreeing it was public and that I could watch, but there was still some grumbling on the dais before the business of the day resumed.