City contracts difficult to gather for story on Grand Prix funder

When it was announced that yet another group would be taking on management of the Baltimore Grand Prix, one of the company's funders stepped into the spotlight.

Columbia-based financier J.P. Grant III has stayed out of the public eye since the storm of a no-bid city schools contract blew over in 2000. But all the while, his company Grant Capital Management was accumulating city contracts. In 2003, the city granted his company a "master lease," an agreement that speeds up the contracting process, but also made it more difficult for The Sun to track.

On Friday, May 11, two days after public notice of Grant's involvement with the Grand Prix, a reporter went to the city comptroller's office to review his company's contracts with the city, which total more than $140 million.

Deputy Comptroller B. Harriette Taylor, who was appointed in 1996 to run the office by Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, dressed down a reporter who dropped by the City Hall office under the assumption that Baltimore's contracts would be immediately available for review.

Taylor insisted that no one in her office had time that day to help. The Comptroller's office was not a "research arm" of The Sun, she said.

Before leaving City Hall, the reporter released a message on Twitter, describing Taylor's rebuff.

One reader, who goes by the handle @LuvXtravagantly, called Taylor, who said that the Sun could come back — on Tuesday.

Upon returning to the comptroller's office, the reporters found that none of the city's contracts have been digitized or entered into a detailed, searchable database.

Outside of going to the comptroller's office and asking for assistance, there is no way to look up contracts by vendor.

Contracts are listed on each Board of Estimates agenda, but those agendas do not cover most of the financing agreements between Grant and Baltimore. The agreements appended to Grant's master lease contract are approved by the city's Board of Finance, not the Board of Estimates.

In the end, Taylor was able to provide the Sun with copies of Grant's master lease and one other contract awarded to Grant's business.

Officials with the comptroller's office could not be reached for further comment.

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