In the early months of Brandon Scott’s tenure, the question of whether Baltimore District Attorney Marilyn Mosby should have received Board of Estimates approval for her trips to Europe, Africa and the UK occupied his senior advisers and others.
Mosby, married to new City Council President Nick Mosby, insisted a report by Inspector General Isabel Mercedes Cumming saying she should have disclosed her travels to the Spending Authority was dead wrong.
In a Twitter post, Mosby wrote: “It is deeply disturbing that IG has publicly criticized me. . . and applied an ambiguous administrative rule regarding travel reimbursement.”
After Comptroller Bill Henry asked for clarification, City Solicitor Jim Shea concluded that the travel rules in the city’s AM (Administration Manual) were inaccurate, making it unclear whether Mosby had broken them.
The new travel policy settles the advance notice issue “once and for all,” Scott said in 2021.
At the mayor’s request, Shea and City Administrator Christopher Shorter called a Travel Rule Work Group. After a three-month study, the panel developed new procedures designed to “ensure [that] All officers are provided with clear and consistent guidance once and for all when it comes to travel and notification policies,” Scott explained in a May 19, 2021 press release.
The most important change required all trips made by city employees that cost more than $800 (or $100 if paid for by a third party) to be disclosed and approved in advance by the Estimates Committee.
Travel abroad and travel that includes one or more weekend days also requires the prior approval of the Board.
Shea hailed the new rules as “in line with Mayor Scott’s promise to bring transparency and accountability to city government.”
A bumpy staging
However, a vote to approve the new policy did not go smoothly.
Nick Mosby twice asked the board to delay action on the changes. Then, at a stormy session on June 9, 2021, he abstained, specifically noting that the rules applied only to the 17 elected officials at City Hall.
As The brew then noted:
“His wife’s position was missing from the line-up. Did Nick Mosby suggest the prosecutor be exempt? Neither the mayor nor attorney Shea questioned Mosby’s statements. Scott later said the new policies would cover 18 elected positions, including the prosecutor, and would take effect immediately.”
After the vote, Marilyn Mosby claimed credit for the new travel policy.
The revised rules were approved that day by Scott, Shea and DPW Assistant Director Matthew Garbark. After failing to submit the measure, Henry voted no.
After the vote, Marilyn Mosby claimed credit for the new travel policy. She released a statement saying, “Having always disclosed all my work-related travel, I support the board’s decision to require the city’s elected officials to formally do the same.”
• New travel rules approved as Marilyn Mosby watches an appraisals committee meeting (6/9/21)
What travel rules?
With that in mind, consider what happened at yesterday’s BOE:
Two weeks after the employee attended a week-long training course at Oxford University in Oxford, England, a claim for over $9,000 in travel expenses incurred by Nick Mosby’s chief of staff was presented to the board.
Shea and Shorter (the latter replacing Mayor Scott), along with DPW Director Jason Mitchell, voted to approve the travel request.
Comptroller Henry abstained, saying he would not vote on “an expense from any component of an elected official’s budget.”
Mosby made no statement at all. Instead, it was announced at the beginning of the session that Mosby would abstain on the agenda page containing the travel request.
Thus yesterday Anderson’s $9,144.77 trip to England was retrospectively approved.
And neither Shea, Shorter nor an absent Mayor Scott explained why they decided to abandon the “clear and consistent” new policy they had advocated a year earlier.