Mayoral hopefuls to clean house; O'Malley, Tufaro don't plan to retain Schmoke appointees

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The foundation of the Schmoke administration -- directors who brought the city widespread housing demolitions, an FBI inquiry into city contracts and police officers running recreation programs -- is one step closer to exit as a result of Tuesday's mayoral primary.

Both winners -- Democratic City Councilman Martin O'Malley and Republican David F. Tufaro -- said yesterday that they would start anew by appointing their own Cabinets if elected Nov. 2.

That would end the reigns of city Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III, Public Works Director George G. Balog and Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier.

"They're running for cover," NAACP President Kweisi Mfume, a former Democratic congressman and West Baltimore councilman, said of city department heads. "I expect [O'Malley] to come in and sweep clean any remnants of the past, and build a young, new administration."

O'Malley -- the fiercest council opponent of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's administration -- won the Democratic primary with 53 percent of the vote, making him the favorite to become Baltimore's 47th mayor. But Tufaro pledged yesterday to make a race of it, despite facing voter registration odds that favor the Democrats 9 to 1.

The Roland Park developer, who has never been elected to political office, said yesterday that he would meet with all Schmoke administrators but would likely clean house.

"Why shouldn't I select the most important people in the administration myself?" Tufaro said. "You want to choose people who share your sense of urgency."

O'Malley's primary victory couldn't have been more of a blow for top city officials.

In his eight years on the council, the former prosecutor and defense attorney has had highly publicized battles with Henson, Balog and Frazier.

"Hurricane Martin is coming to a police department near you," Fraternal Order of Police President Gary McLhinney said yesterday. "You'll have to put a net around the building to catch all the people that will be jumping out of that department."

During the final weeks of the primary campaign -- a political donnybrook with 16 other Democratic candidates -- O'Malley repeatedly said that Henson, Balog and Frazier should start packing if he wins.

Yesterday, O'Malley confirmed that his plans haven't changed but said no decision has been made on other city positions.

"I'm sure they heard it," O'Malley said of his pledge to dismiss Henson, Balog and Frazier. "But I'm totally open beyond those three."

The news was received almost gleefully by some city employees, who said the changes have been long overdue.

"Ding dong, the witch is dead," city Real Estate Officer Anthony J. Ambridge said in reference to Henson, whom he has battled repeatedly.

Neither O'Malley nor Tufaro would comment on likely replacements. O'Malley, 36, has built his reputation investigating city government. He led the council inquiry into Henson's spending of $26 million in no-bid emergency contracts in 1995 to fix up city properties. The public animosity between the two men grew to the point where Henson called O'Malley out into the street for a fight during one hearing.

But in recent months, both men issued conciliatory statements. When O'Malley entered the race, Henson called him one of the city's brightest council members. And when Henson demolished Murphy Homes, O'Malley said he has learned to appreciate Henson's talents in attracting close to $300 million in new city housing dollars.

Henson, who endorsed Carl Stokes for mayor, has said he would like to remain Housing commissioner to complete several projects. But O'Malley, who ran a campaign for "Change and Reform," reiterated yesterday that "it's time for a change."

Tufaro, 52, said that unlike his Democratic opponent, he has no axes to grind with city administrators and would appreciate insight into their departments. But he doesn't expect many Schmoke administrators to linger.

"The net effect is that I would select my own people," said Tufaro, a Yale graduate and former attorney with Piper & Marbury.

State Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, the former mayor and governor, knows the feeling. He agreed that the new mayor must start fresh but cautioned him not to move too fast.

"He's got to let the people know that the same old thing isn't going to happen," Schaefer said. "But he doesn't have to do it right away."

The only administrator to remain with Schmoke from the Schaefer era is Balog. The leader of the city's largest department, with 6,000 employees, served as an assistant director under Schaefer.

O'Malley criticized Balog during recent forums, saying that he should be out cleaning the streets instead of "shaking down contractors" for campaign contributions.

Balog backed O'Malley's former council ally, City Council President Lawrence A. Bell III, in the mayoral race, with department employees pledging to raise money for Bell's campaign.

The public works department has been under grand jury investigation the past four years. Officials are being scrutinized for allegedly raising campaign donations for Schmoke in 1995 and steering city contracts to the contributors. Both Schmoke and Balog deny the accusations, which were levied by employees the department has labeled as "disgruntled."

At the weekly Board of Estimates meeting yesterday, Balog said he intends to continue in his post until Schmoke's term expires in December.

Of the three directors, many council members agreed that Balog will be the toughest to replace. Despite the contracting controversies, Balog is nationally recognized for his operation.

"Until someone is able to grasp just what the DPW does, it will be difficult to replace at first," said City Councilman Robert Curran, O'Malley's district colleague and confidant.

Frazier might not wait. The police chief, who was hired by Schmoke in 1994, interviewed with the Justice Department last month to head the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

O'Malley and Frazier fought last year after the department announced that city shootings had dropped 60 percent between 1994 and 1996. After spending months pouring over every shooting report, O'Malley showed that the department had overestimated the safety of the city in regard to shootings by 30 percent.

When asked at a forum recently about Frazier's future, O'Malley answered in a single word: "Gone."

"I know what's going to happen," McLhinney said. "The question is how quickly."

Frazier has a $115,000 annual contract with the city that would take him through 2002. Department spokesman Robert W. Weinhold Jr. said yesterday that Frazier is concentrating on reducing city crime.

Last week, the department issued statistics showing that crime had dropped 10 percent for the first six months of this year compared to a similar period last year.

"The department will remain focused on reducing crime in Baltimore," Weinhold said. "The important concept is that everyone is collectively committed to reducing crime in this city."

Pub Date: 9/16/99

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