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Top Baltimore emergency officials accused of unauthorized overtime, overspending on custom car

Baltimore’s top emergency management official approved inappropriate overtime for a senior manager and replaced a city vehicle the manager crashed with a lease that was double the cost, according to a report from the Office of the Inspector General released Wednesday.

The report also states the senior manager worked for the city without a contract for three months and violated several city regulations by “excessively” using city electronic equipment for personal use.

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The report did not name the officials. However, city officials confirmed in March that David McMillan, director of the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management, was on leave. His employment with the city ended March 25, according to a spokesman for Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young at the time.

The timing of McMillan’s departure caused concern, as it coincided with the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in Maryland. Efforts to control the spread of the disease forced a virtual shutdown of the city and heavily burdened emergency services.

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McMillan could not be reached Wednesday for comment. He received a $132,600 annual salary. Chief Charles Svehla, a top official in the Baltimore Fire Department, continues to serve as acting emergency manager, a spokesman for Young said Wednesday.

The mayor’s deputy chief of staff for public safety, Sunny Schnitzer, said responded to the report with a June 5 letter that said neither person the OIG investigated works for the agency now.

“OEM is currently reviewing all existing personnel contracts and leases to ensure they are reasonable and in line with city polices,” Schnitzer wrote.

The inspector general’s office said it investigated after receiving a complaint about alleging an “improper” contract and vehicle lease “resulting in excessive and unnecessary costs.”

The report states that the executive manager sought approval in December 2018 from the city Board of Estimates to use the senior manager as a contract employee after his retirement in February 2019 from the fire department. Board minutes from January 2019 show approval to hire Anthony R. Smith to a one-year contract for $105,000.

However, Smith did not start working with the emergency management office until April 2019, and the report said the executive manager did not revise the contract or resubmit it to the board for approval.

Smith did not return a text message Wednesday seeking comment and could not be reached by phone.

The contract also stated that no additional benefits or compensation would be paid. However, Smith was paid more than 560 hours of overtime between April 2019 and March 2020, totaling $42,441. The executive manager approved the overtime and allowed the senior manager to continue working for four months after the contract expired, according to the report.

Before he retired from the fire department in 2019, Smith was among the city’s top five highest-paid employees. He received $243,747 in fiscal year 2019, including a base salary of $105,000.

According to the report, the senior manager needed a city vehicle for use 24 hours per day, seven days a week, in the event of an emergency. When Smith joined the agency, he had been assigned a take-home vehicle with a lease costing $498 per month. However, Smith had been involved in a September 2018 crash in his city-leased vehicle while off duty at 2:30 a.m. on Interstate 695.

Executive management approved the lease of a new Chevrolet Tahoe with a $695 customization package, including adjustable pedals, forward collision alert, special headlamps, automatic braking, lane departure warnings and a safety alert driver seat. The Tahoe cost $977 per month — $11,496 more to the city over the life of the lease.

The old leased vehicle cost $12,634 to repair, an amount the city paid, according to the report. Another $7,592 was due to the lessor because of the accident damage and excessive mileage on the vehicle.

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In an interview with the inspector general’s office, the executive manager said the increased cost of the Tahoe was necessary, based on the characteristics of the new vehicle. The executive manager said it had better towing capacity and more room for emergency equipment.

The inspector general found the senior manager violated several other city regulations by using city equipment for personal use and engaging in communication “unbecoming” of a city employee. Details of the violations were deemed a personnel matter and were not disclosed in the report.

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