Would you hire a company to undertake a $7 million job that had virtually no employees, no equipment and no experience to handle the task?
Of course not, but the Schaefer administration may have other ideas.
That's because the company in this instance is WBS Inc., a year-old Baltimore-based firm associated with William L. "Little Willie" Adams, a longtime political ally of the governor. When the lottery giant GTECH Corp. bid and won Maryland's $65 million lottery computer contract, it identified WBS as one of the minority businesses that would receive a sizable chunk of the financial action for printing lottery tickets.
But now the state's own Division of Fair Practices has disqualified WBS as a minority enterprise under state guidelines because the company is essentially a pass-through operation. It planned to subcontract the printing to a Virginia minority-run firm and rake off the profits for funneling this work to the company. WBS, it turns out, is a corporate shell incapable of performing the printing itself.
Yet WBS may yet end up with the $7 million contract. GTECH can still divert its $1.2 million a year printing business to WBS, of which Mr. Adams is treasurer, and find other minority businesses as subcontractors to fulfill the 10 percent minority set-aside law. Or WBS can win on appeal, where a Schaefer appointee, Transportation Secretary O. James Lighthizer, eventually will be asked to uphold or reverse the Division of Fair Practices' decision.
It strikes us that this is one instance in which the matter is crystal clear: WBS cannot do the printing job itself. The state would be throwing away money if it permitted this suspicious arrangement to go forward. There have been too many lottery shenanigans in recent years. This is one of the most blatant. It smacks of political favoritism. If the governor doesn't put an end to these high jinks, public confidence in the Maryland's lottery integrity could be severely shaken.