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Howard County Executive Ball spent thousands of taxpayer dollars to brand items with his name, records show

Records provided by the Howard County government show the county spent $693 on 100 commemorative coins that were given out at a summer ribbon-cutting ceremony in Columbia. (Courtesy photo/Howard County government)
Records provided by the Howard County government show the county spent $693 on 100 commemorative coins that were given out at a summer ribbon-cutting ceremony in Columbia. (Courtesy photo/Howard County government)

Since taking office last year, Howard Executive Calvin Ball has spent more than $3,700 of public money on a variety of knickknacks that are branded with his name, records provided by the county government show.

The records show the county spent $693 on 100 commemorative coins. The coins were given out at a summer ribbon-cutting ceremony in Columbia attended by Ball, state Del. Terri Hill and state Sen. Clarence Lam.

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The imprint on the front of the coin reads “County Executive Calvin Ball” and “bocce ball court ribbon cutting ceremony,” with the Howard County logo in the center. On the center of the back of the coin, the imprint is the day of the event, and around the rims it reads “Howard County Recreation & Parks" and “Cedar Lane Park ⦁ Columbia, Maryland.”

In late May, the county spent $2,007 on 1,540 royal blue lanyards with white lettering that reads “Calvin Ball,” records show.

The county also spent $1,243.89 on 1,000 reusable bottle opener/utensil sets. The records do not specify what is on the imprint, but a Facebook post from mid-August by Democratic state Del. Eric Ebersole shows a set of plastic cutlery with the county logo that reads “Calvin Ball” and “Howard County executive.”

Next step in avoiding single use plastics. Brought my own reusable plasticware to Bibibop in Columbia Mall tonight....

Posted by Eric Ebersole on Saturday, August 17, 2019

A third invoice shows the county spent $1,713 on 1,500 blue cellphone sleeve/wallets with a white imprint. The records do not specify if they bear Ball’s name.

Ball declined to comment for this story.

The use of taxpayer money to pay for knickknacks is not uncommon, Ball spokesman Mark Miller said in a statement. A balance sheet also shows the county in the past spent $2,216.70 on “government apparel,” a “ceremonial key” and cuff links.

Miller said at least one former county executive engaged in similar practices.

In August, the Howard County Times requested invoices for items that were branded with former Howard County executives’ names. The county only provided one invoice from October 2016 that showed, under former County Executive Allan Kittleman, the county spent $3,473.90 on 500 commemorative coins that had imprints of the county logo and the historic Ellicott City clock.

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Commemorative coins bearing former County Executive Allan Kittleman’s name were given to recognize recovery efforts in the wake of the July 2016 flood in Ellicott City.
Commemorative coins bearing former County Executive Allan Kittleman’s name were given to recognize recovery efforts in the wake of the July 2016 flood in Ellicott City.(Courtesy photo/Howard County government)

Photos provided by Miller confirm the coins bear Kittleman’s name and were given to recognize recovery efforts in the wake of the July 2016 flood in Ellicott City.

Miller said the act of using county dollars to brand items with political leaders names is common. States around the nation place governors’ and mayors’ names on welcome signs in airports and along highways.

He could not say definitively which other former Howard County executives engaged in the practice.

Miller said the act of giving out the knickknacks with Ball’s name “helps increase constituent communication and engagement.”

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