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Baltimore spending board approves 9 new positions in council president’s office despite Scott’s objections

Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott speaks in 2019 at the Harlem Park Recreation Center, standing next to Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young.
Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott speaks in 2019 at the Harlem Park Recreation Center, standing next to Mayor Bernard C. "Jack" Young. (Ulysses Muoz / Baltimore Sun)

Baltimore’s spending board approved Wednesday the additions of nine staff positions to the council president’s office, despite objections from City Council President Brandon Scott.

Scott’s opposition set off a fiery exchange between him and outgoing Democratic Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, who proposed the staff additions.

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The Board of Estimates approved the item 3-2, with Scott and Democratic City Comptroller Joan Pratt opposed and Young, acting City Solicitor Dana Moore and acting Department of Public Works Director Matthew W. Garbark in favor.

Both Scott and Pratt argued that the economic uncertainty caused by the coronavirus pandemic and an impending revenue shortage did not lend themselves to the creation of jobs within an already robust office, which has close to two dozens positions already.

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Young called Scott’s objections “disingenuous and dangerous,” saying that Scott knows better than anyone that the office is understaffed.

“I disagree with the process of how this is being done,” replied Scott. He questioned why the board should approve a request to beef up his office that was made from outside the office.

The showdown highlighted the friction between the two Democrats. Scott won the Democratic nomination for mayor in a June primary, defeating Young and others. He is running in the general election Tuesday, and is favored as Democrats hold a powerful voter registration advantage in the city.

Scott, whose “New Way Forward” mayoral platform stresses government efficiency, an elimination of corruption and smart spending, urged the board to consider Baltimore’s fiscal challenges before approving the item.

It came after Young levied a nonessential hiring freeze to stabilize the city’s loss of revenue during the pandemic and after his recent announcement of plans to layoff more than 60 workers within the public works department.

Young said the positions would help create a more competent, transparent and effective council, and accused Scott of pushing "for legislative reforms on the one hand, while leaving the cupboard bare on the other hand.”

“It’s unconscionable,” said Young. “I don’t understand why you’re doing this.”

Pratt, in her objection, said it did not make sense for the board to create the positions without allowing an incoming council president to review the office.

Del. Nick Mosby, the Democratic nominee for the position, is running against Republican Jovani Patterson in the general election.

“If the city is going to make new positions now, it should be for trash removal and public health support,” Pratt said. “Today’s personnel actions are premature and I question whether they’re in the best interest of our city’s resources."

Young, who served as council president for about a decade before stepping in as mayor in 2019, sought to make the case that the council’s leader needs a more robust staff to serve the people. He and Quinton Herbert, director of the department of human resources in the mayor’s office, said the positions would be created out of the city’s general funds, and the budget office confirmed the funds' availability.

Young also said he had hoped to make the transition of power easier for a new mayor and a new council president.

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Still, Scott made clear that the request did not stem from his office.

“This is a very unwise time to be doing this,” Scott said, adding that the city must also prepare to tighten its belt for future education reforms proposed by the Maryland General Assembly’s Kirwan Commission, as well as the constraints imposed by the pandemic.

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