Cronyism In Annapolis Government

Most political administrations are criticized on some level for giving political jobs or directing lucrative contracts. The O’Malley administration famously padded the purchase price of land that the state was buying from a member of the Governor’s transition team.

Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer’s administration is not free of such controversy. Finance Director Tim Elliot’s wife is on the payroll (although she may well be qualified for the job). There are implications of improper use of city money, including sister city voyages and the pulpit given to clear mayoral candidate Chuck Weikel via the Annapolis Alive program. Perhaps most egregiously, the Mayor has twice changed the charter and created entire new departments that are promptly staffed with her friends in $100,000+ director positions.

Reporters with more resources are able to make more pointed connections. Laura Vozzella, a columnist for The Sun, recently found a dubious connection between the city special events coordinator and Moyer appointee Karen Engelke, and a firm contracted to work on the city’s recent anniversary celebration:

Yet there’s a tribute to Her Majesty, calling her “the mother of elected,
democratic government here in Maryland” on the Annapolis Alive! Web site.

Where’d the city get that idea? That bit was written by
“writer and historian Joseph Meany of Samuel Hutton Associates.” He had a hand
in several aspects of the charter celebration, including arranging for Ellefson
and other symposium speakers to come to town. Where’d the city find Meany?

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I tried to ask Karen Engelke, the city’s special events coordinator. I
never heard back from her, but it seems she didn’t have to look far to find

Samuel Hutton Associates is based out of a Cornhill Street house listed in
state records under her name. Engelke is listed as a “principal” in the
two-person firm on a company profile posted on the Web.

Is it really possible that someone in charge of special events for the city
could hire her own firm to do work for those events? The Annapolis Alive! site
describes how Meany wrote up some history that was posted on a kiosk in the Clay
Street neighborhood. “The kiosk project manager was Karen Engelke,” the Web site
notes. The site makes no mention of Engelke’s connection to his firm.

I am actually fine with a certain level of cronyism. I have some friends and family that are smart as hell, and if I was elected Mayor I would appoint them on the first day. Some of them have companies that do really good work, and I would want the city to do business with them. The difference is, it wouldn’t be a secret. I would defend my appointments and awarded contracts. My public information officer would know about it, and he would be instructed to say “Those people are smart and those companies are good, so calm yourselves down.” With this administration, it’s always quite the opposite, and one can’t help but be a cynic.

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