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Crab cakes, cookies and steak: Taxpayers paid $260K for Maryland judges' annual conference on Eastern Shore

The annual two-day conference of Maryland judges in May cost taxpayers $259,584.07 for nearly 375 rooms, food and beverages and conference facilities, according to the detailed invoice obtained by The Baltimore Sun through a Public Information Act request.

The 2018 Judicial Conference bill from the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina in Cambridge came in below the $324,595.60 maximum limit authorized by the contract awarded last year by the Administration Office of the Courts.

The highlights from the bill include:

  • Of the 375 rooms booked, 358 were used on May 23 and 348 were occupied on May 24.
  • Room charges: $133,061.84
  • Food and beverage charges: $107,425.25
  • Audio visual: $34,864.28
  • The average total cost per booked room was $347 — not bad for a resort where a basic room next Wednesday and Thursday with breakfast would set one back $304 a night, not counting taxes and a $32 daily resort fee.

One of the two $6,000 coffee breaks for 358 guests and others included beverages, “house made granola bars” and “chocolate chunk and oatmeal jumbo home style cookies.”

Some of the best food detailed on the invoice was enjoyed by the senior-most judges, which included Chief Judge Mary Ellen Barbera and her fellow Court of Appeals jurists who attended — Clayton Greene Jr., Sally Adkins, Robert McDonald, Shirley Watts and Michele Hotten.

At the $2,196.19 “senior judges reception” — held on May 23 at 4:30 p.m. — the hotel provided an “artisanal cheese station,” 75 crab cakes with tartar sauce, wild mushroom tart with porcini dip and “60 shaved beef sirloin, horseradish-chive cream cheese on pretzel bread.”

Clearly, Hyatt and its Cambridge location — which will host the conference next year — has made an impression.

The current request for proposals to host the 2020 judicial conference requires that bidders’ facilities “must be located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.”

The solicitation also gets a bit more specific on the food the judges want in two years: “BBQ Buffet or Crab Feast Style” and a variety of drinks, including a wine list, for dinner, and “mini crab cakes, mini egg rolls, mini sliders and mini spanakopita” for lunch.

Making the decision sounds like a tasty government gig.

Bidders, the proposal states, must provide an on-premise tour and a “taste testing.”

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