Political opponents of Annapolis Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins have attacked a recent advertisement by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Maryland, which features the city administrator holding his newborn son, as a conflict of interest.
The city's Republican Central Committee issued a statement yesterday chiding Michael Mallinoff, the mayor's right-hand man, for appearing in the ad, which has been printed in The Sun and the Maryland Gazette. Former Mayor Dennis Callahan, an undeclared candidate in next year's mayoral race, also questioned the ad because the city contracts with the lowest bidder to provide employee health benefits.
"A legitimate issue has been raised: Is it appropriate for city of Annapolis officials to give commercial endorsements of one bidder for city business over another?" said Heidi Berry, the committee chairwoman.
Mr. Mallinoff is on vacation in Russia, and his wife could not be reached for comment yesterday. But Mr. Hopkins defended his chief administrator, saying Mr. Mallinoff did not breach any rules of ethics.
Headlined "A Matter of Trust," the full-page ad shows Mr. Mallinoff and his wife, Laura, holding their infant son. The text explains that Mrs. Mallinoff had to be transported from one hospital to another when she gave birth because the doctor had an emergency delivery, but there were no insurance complications.
The ad is part of a new campaign by the state's top health insurer, which has been troubled by reports of financial mismanagement. The Mallinoffs were among several people chosen to "represent a cross-section of customers," said Jody Buffington, director of advertising for the Blues.
They were reimbursed for expenses but not paid to appear in the ad, she said. Mr. Mallinoff's occupation was not identified.
Mr. Callahan, who came under criticism while he was mayor for appearing in an advertisement for the Merritt Athletic Club, scoffed at the argument that the Mallinoffs were selected at random.