Even as income-tax problems toppled Baltimore’s police commissioner in May, a retired officer he hired to be a deputy commissioner failed to file his business property tax returns until Wednesday, a day after The Baltimore Sun asked about the firms he owns.
As of Tuesday, Deputy Police Commissioner Andre Bonaparte had not filed personal property tax returns for two businesses in 2017 and one of them in 2018. He was therefore not operating in compliance with Maryland law, and each of his firms was “not in good standing” with the state, according to the Department of Assessments and Taxation.
On Wednesday, Bonaparte filed the returns and provided the records to The Sun.
“The clerical matters brought to my attention have been rectified,” Bonaparte wrote in a statement. “My businesses, that I have operated above board and ethically for several years, are in good standing.”
The Sun’s findings — compiled through state and city records — raise further questions about how well Mayor Catherine Pugh’s administration vets top-tier appointees.
Three Pugh officials resigned this year after questions were raised about their backgrounds. In March, Pugh’s spokesman Darryl Strange quit within hours of being introduced at City Hall, after The Sun inquired about three lawsuits filed against him when he was a police officer. In May, the city’s new deputy civil rights director, Charles G. Byrd Jr., stepped down after The Sun inquired about his disbarment as an attorney last year.
And in May, Police Commissioner Darryl De Sousa resigned less than four months into his tenure after federal authorities charged him with three misdemeanor counts of failing to file federal taxes.
De Sousa said taxes were withheld from his pay, but he did not file federal or state returns in 2013, 2014 and 2015. He is awaiting trial.
Pugh’s spokesman referred questions about Bonaparte to the police, and wouldn’t talk about the vetting process.
Interim Police Commissioner Gary Tuggle said he expects every Police Department employee to adhere to all laws on and off duty.
“While I know it has been a practice in the past that senior commanders have had secondary jobs, I expect, particularly at the highest levels of the agency, that my senior commanders are focused on the crime fight and reform efforts and not distracted by secondary employment,” Tuggle said in statement.
“If I see that secondary employment is becoming a distraction, I have the right to revoke that opportunity.”
Brandon Scott, chairman of the council’s public safety committee, said Bonaparte's tax issues strengthen his desire for wholesale changes in how the agency hires and vets employees.
“For those of us in public service, we have to be on top of our personal lives,” Scott said. “I want the department focused on the crime fight.”
Bonaparte spent 21 years in the Police Department before retiring as deputy district commander of the Eastern District to become senior director of public safety for East Baltimore Development Inc. in 2008.
In 2012, he founded Frontline Management Services, which provides public safety services in city neighborhoods, including Eager Park.
Bonaparte was brought back by De Sousa in February as one of two deputy commissioners. He oversees the operations bureau, which includes patrol, criminal investigations and special operations. He earns an annual salary of $180,000.
His companies, Frontline Consulting LLC and Frontline Management Services LLC, were “not in good standing,” according to Department of Assessments and Taxation records.
Bonaparte did not file a state return for Frontline Management Services for 2018 by the April 15 deadline, and did not file a state return for Frontline Consulting for 2017 and 2018, records show. Each company faces late fines up to $500 for missing the deadlines.
“When a business is not in good standing, it means that the business is not in compliance with the law in the state of Maryland,” Department of Assessments and Taxation spokeswoman Fallon Patton wrote in a statement.
Companies can return to good standing by filing the missing reports and paying a late penalty. Those that do not file by October of the following year will be “forfeited,” Patton said, and have no legal right to operate or use their name.
Bonaparte listed 100 percent ownership stakes in each limited-liability corporation when he filed financial disclosures with the Baltimore City Ethics Board on March 15, records show.
The nonprofit East Baltimore Development Inc. paid Frontline Management Services for the year ending June 30, 2017, records show. The company provided curbside street cleaning, lawn cutting and snow and graffiti removal. It also supplied uniformed hospitality and safety ambassadors for business parks and residential communities.
East Baltimore Development receives money from private donors and the federal, state and city governments.
Chief police spokesman T.J. Smith said a Police Department policy forbids employees from using police powers to benefit secondary employment for personal gain. Any violation is subject to disciplinary action, he said in a statement.
Bonaparte said his companies present no conflicts with his police job. He said he has turned over full operations to a “trusted and longtime employee,” and has directed his attorney to create more safeguards to protect against any perceptions of conflict.
“My goal remains to work to reduce violence in Baltimore City and I will do so,” he said in his statement. “I have no conflicts of interest with the city or the Police Department.”
Tuggle learned of Bonaparte’s outside employment after he became the department's leader in May. He said department safeguards are in place to ensure accountability when top leaders make decisions.
“Anytime resources are moved, there are layers of accountability,” his statement said. “The chief of patrol, the area commanders, the district commanders develop the plans and present to the deputy commissioner.”