Gov. Larry Hogan criticized state lawmakers Tuesday for holding a hearing on his decision in July to close the Baltimore City Detention Center, saying they only wanted to complain about "our successful and decisive action."
But those who spoke at the hearing did not complain about the governor's move. One leading Democrat praised Hogan's closing of the antiquated state-run jail.
"We're very pleased with the way it worked out," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Joseph F. Vallario Jr. of Prince George's County told Hogan's public safety chief, Stephen T. Moyer.
Nevertheless, midway through the oversight hearing, Hogan posted a statement to his Facebook page protesting the proceedings.
"Today, a small band of out-of-touch legislators have convened a 'hearing' in Annapolis to complain about our closing of the jail," the Republican said. "Despite nearly universal support for our decision, it seems a few professional politicians in Annapolis want to try somehow to defend the indefensible failed status-quo."
House Appropriations Committee Chairman Maggie L. McIntosh, a Baltimore Democrat, said she was perplexed by the governor's reaction. "There was not one adversarial question or comment made," she said.
The occasion was the General Assembly's first inquiry into Hogan's widely acclaimed decision to quickly shut down the men's unit at the jail, which had long been assailed for its decrepit conditions. The jail was at the center of a corruption scandal during the O'Malley administration that led to the convictions of dozens of gang members and correctional officers.
The hearing focused on the aftermath of Hogan's decision to close the men's facility last summer. Moyer reported that the shutdown had generally gone well, with more than 850 pretrial detainees moved to other buildings in the state prison complex downtown. Another 241 inmates who had been convicted and sentenced were moved to other state prison facilities.
The secretary said the closing of the detention center could lead to an acceleration in the state's plans to demolish the Civil War-era structure and gradually replace it with smaller, modern facilities within the complex. In 2013, a commission formed in the wake of the scandal called for construction of new facilities there over a 10-year period.
Moyer said any decision to accelerate plans for the complex would be up to the governor.
When Hogan announced the decision, he said the move would save the state $10 million to $15 million a year. But on Tuesday, Moyer told lawmakers he could not say definitively what the fiscal impact would be.
After the hearing, a spokesman for Moyer said the secretary welcomed the lawmakers' questions and did not feel he had been criticized. "We felt the questions were fair," said Robert B. Thomas Jr.
Del. Mike McKay, a Republican from Cumberland, said that lawmakers had treated the secretary respectfully and that he was puzzled when he saw the Hogan statement.
"It seems like that was a canned response," McKay said. "I don't see where the secretary was attacked, and I don't see where the governor was attacked."
Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said the governor's objection was that the hearing had been called in the first place. He noted that when Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, closed the House of Correction in Jessup in March 2007, the legislature held no hearings.
House Speaker Michael E. Busch, a Democrat, said the decision to call a hearing was justified.
"It's the job of the legislature to inquire about the decisions any administration makes," he said.