The Maryland Board of Public Works approved a $111 million airport cleaning contract with a Baltimore-based charity yesterday after giving the organization's chief executive a chance to defend his high salary and the company's business deals with board members.
The state board, comprising Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, unanimously approved a multiyear deal with The Chimes Inc. of Baltimore for services at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.
The charity employs mentally disabled workers in paying jobs. It has come under fire in recent months for its officers' high income, and for entering into business deals with board members.
The Sun reported Sunday that Chimes chief executive Terry Allen Perl received $686,506 in total compensation during the 2002 fiscal year, far higher than the amount originally reported to the Internal Revenue Service.
Federal officials have said they hope to tighten charity reporting requirements, and have criticized The Chimes' incomplete disclosures.
"Given the press attention with respect to The Chimes, with the background noise, we thought it appropriate that The Chimes be heard," Ehrlich said yesterday, explaining why he asked Perl to appear before the state board.
Perl told the governor and other politicians that there were no conflicts in the business dealings between the charity and some of its board members, including a transportation contract with Yellow Trans- portation/Connex worth $988,000 and a leasing deal with Madison Capital valued at $910,000.
Yellow President Mark Joseph is a member of The Chimes Foundation, and Allan Levine, a former Chimes Inc. chairman, is chief operating officer of Madison Capital.
Perl conceded that the charity erred in IRS filings known as Form 990s by not disclosing deferred compensation and other benefits to executive-level employees. "We didn't pay the kind of attention to the 990s that we should have," he said.
Neither Ehrlich nor other public works board members questioned Perl after his presentation, but Schaefer said he wondered if The Sun was singling out the charity.
"The history of the Sunpapers is, once they've got you on their list, they never get off," said Schaefer, who has worked with Joseph, the Yellow owner, on Baltimore development projects.
"I just don't understand why the Sunpaper picks you out to discredit you."
The airport cleaning pact is valued at $43.9 million for three years, with two renewal options that could bring the total spent to $111.3 million.