The Baltimore County Council has withdrawn a proposed contract with an economic consulting firm after criticism that its chief executive had conflicts of interest.
The council was scheduled to vote Monday on the four-year, $25,600 agreement with Sage Policy Group to provide economic forecasting and briefings to the council’s Spending Affordability and Economic Advisory committees.
The council didn’t publicly discuss the contract at their meeting Monday. Council Chairman Tom Quirk, an Oella Democrat, told The Baltimore Sun he removed the contract from the meeting agenda after several council members raised concerns that Sage’s work for private clients posed conflicts of interest. Members also questioned why the contract was not bid out.
Sage has provided economic forecasting services for the council since 2010. The company’s clients include the Maryland Building Industry Association, which lobbied against legislation this year to impose development impact fees.
The firm’s chairman and CEO is Anirban Basu, a well-known local economist who chairs the county’s Economic Advisory Committee, a group of business representatives. That panel advises the Spending Affordability Committee, which sets guidelines for county spending.
Basu couldn’t be reached for comment Monday evening after the council meeting. He told The Sun last week that he did not believe the county contract raised any conflict-of-interest issues.
Last week, a Towson resident, Peta Richkus, appeared before the council and criticized public statements Basu made as the county debated County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr.’s plan to raise taxes.
Councilman David Marks said that in recent days, he also received feedback from other constituents who raised issues with the contract. Marks said he was pleased the contract would go to bid.
“[Basu] may very well end up getting the contract, but he should have to compete with other institutions that provide similar services,” said Marks, a Perry Hall Republican.