Records: Rawlings-Blake spent nearly $3,000 on food and drink at Ravens games

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, second from left, at the AFC Divisional Round Playoff Game against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium, with (from left) Larry Maykrantz,, Jerry Wit and Sharon Akers.
Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, second from left, at the AFC Divisional Round Playoff Game against the Houston Texans at M&T Bank Stadium, with (from left) Larry Maykrantz,, Jerry Wit and Sharon Akers. (Sloane Brown / Special to The Baltimore Sun)

Using public money, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake treated guests to $2,920.52 worth of food and nonalcoholic beverages in the city's skybox during a recent Ravens season at M&T Bank Stadium, records show.

At eight Ravens games during the 2010 season and a 2011 U2 concert, Rawlings-Blake and her guests, who included friends, family and political allies, spent an average of about $325 a game. The city has not yet responded to a request for documentation of money spent during the 2011 season.

As part of a contract the stadium has with the Maryland Stadium Authority, the mayor and governor are provided with skyboxes and receive their food "at cost" — deeply discounted from the prices charged to average football fans. The receipts show that food at the stadium is usually sold at about four times its break-even cost.

For instance, on Dec. 5, 2010, Rawlings-Blake purchased the "Steelers Option Play Package" — a smorgasbord of food that included beef tenderloin, tomato bisque, jumbo shrimp cocktail, Maryland crab cakes, shrimp tacos and red velvet cupcakes — for $286 instead of its retail value of $1,200.

At various events throughout the 2010 season, the mayor and her guests dined on beef sliders, clam casino dip, Chesapeake crab dip, pizza, buffalo wings, gourmet cheese, tea cookies, pumpkin cheesecake and cookies and creme cupcakes. At nearly every game, crab cakes were served. Taxpayers do not foot the bill for alcohol, the records show, only food and non-alcoholic beverages.

Rawlings-Blake spent at a similar rate to Gov. Martin O'Malley and his guests in the state's box. At nine home games, attendees in the governor's box spent $2,348.90 of public money on food and drinks.

Christopher B. Summers, president of the Maryland Public Policy Institute, acknowledged that the dollar amount spent on refreshments was small, but said the principle of charging taxpayers for politicians' entertainment was troubling.

"No dollar amount is insignificant," he said of the expenses. "I don't think the taxpayers should have to pay for this. It's almost embarrassing. Why do the governor and mayor have their own boxes? It's like royalty. I think the boxes should be abolished altogether. If its important for them to have these they should come out of their pocket."

Rawlings-Blake's spokesman, Ryan O'Doherty, said in a statement that he rejected any implication that the mayor was using the box improperly.

"It is the mayor's policy to invite community, business and faith leaders, elected officials, charities, family and hardworking city employees — strengthening working relationships that benefit the city," he said. "We are not going to pretend that there is anything unusual about it or that it is somehow wrong for the mayor to spend time with business and community leaders and her family."

Government watchdog group Common Cause has called on both the mayor and the governor to create a written policy governing the way skybox tickets are distributed to ensure that they are not used solely as a perk for family, friends and political allies. The group also has asked for the mayor and governor to post on their respective websites lists of the people who were invited.

The Baltimore Sun requested the list of skybox attendees and related financial documents after Rawlings-Blake's use of her mayoral skybox was thrust into the spotlight. She rescinded an offer of tickets to City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young for the Jan. 11 playoff game against the Houston Texans. The move came after Young publicly criticized her efforts to plan another Grand Prix IndyCar race.



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