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Mayor replacing CitiStat chief Grimes

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has removed embattled CitiStat Director Mark H. Grimes, who for the past 20 months has led the agency charged with monitoring and analyzing the local government's work.

Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has removed embattled CitiStat Director Mark H. Grimes, who for the past 20 months has led the agency charged with monitoring and analyzing the local government's work.

Rawlings-Blake promoted Grimes last year to the Cabinet-level post to overhaul CitiStat, but mayoral spokesman Howard Libit said Wednesday that she has become dissatisfied with the agency's performance.

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"The mayor has decided to make a change in the leadership of CitiStat," Libit said in response to questions about Grimes' role at the agency. "Mark Grimes is no longer there. The mayor has been frustrated by the pace of change."

Grimes resigned from city government when informed that he was being removed from his position at CitiStat, according to City Hall sources familiar with the situation. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Grimes' departure comes several months after a Baltimore Sun investigation found that CitiStat lost data analysis staff, failed to publish any department reports and canceled one-third of the meetings that were the backbone of its analytical process. Meanwhile, the CitiStat budget had doubled from fiscal year 2011 to fiscal 2014, to $1 million — as the agency ceased its biweekly monitoring of many thorny issues.

The Sun also found that Grimes, who was paid a $124,000 salary, was involved in a private law practice that holds a state legal contract requiring him to work 22 hours per week.

The reshuffling mirrors a shake-up in the agency two years ago, when then-Director Chad Kenney resigned rather than accept a transfer to make way for Grimes.

CitiStat was created under then-Mayor Martin O'Malley, and a central element of the agency required bureaucrats to regularly answer key data-driven questions about how the city operates — on issues such as gun crime, trash removal and overtime. Other cities have adopted the process, and O'Malley, now campaigning for the Democratic nomination for president, points to the agency's creation as a signature accomplishment of his mayoral tenure.

The agency's work stalled after Grimes took over last year. For example, one group that focuses on domestic violence issues canceled six meetings in 2014 and did not meet at all for six months before The Sun published its findings. The group, called DVStat, met in May and July, said DorothyJ. Lennig, director of the House of Ruth's domestic violence legal clinic.

But the group, which includes police, prosecutors and advocates, has been slow to gain traction, Lennig said, because everyone except her is new to the process.

"You lose a little bit of continuity. Everything takes longer," she said. Lennig hopes the city hires a director who holds agencies accountable.

The city will detail more changes to CitiStat in the coming weeks, including naming a new leader, Libit said. He declined to elaborate on Grimes' departure.

City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young wants a new director who has the administration's trust and can hit the ground running, said spokesman Lester Davis.

"From crime to grime, it's critical," Davis said of CitiStat. "It's not an agency that can be overlooked."

Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke, who led a City Council hearing in March to examine CitiStat, said she is "very pleased to hear that CitiStat is getting back to the nuts and bolts of making the city more accountable."

After The Sun's investigation was published, Rawlings-Blake said she supported Grimes' efforts and urged City Council members not to hold a hearing on the agency's performance.

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"Yes, [CitiStat] did work well, but it wasn't perfect," the mayor said in March as Grimes stood behind her at a City Hall news conference. "CitiStat should not and cannot be static."

Rawlings-Blake also emphasized that times have changed since CitiStat was created and that it is essential to explore ways to improve the agency. She sought to align CitiStat more with the city's budgeting process, which rewrites the budget each year based on programs' effectiveness in meeting identified goals.

The Sun's investigation also found that Grimes' private legal practice, which he runs with his wife, had charged the state for thousands of hours on hundreds of cases since it landed a contract with the Maryland Department of Human Resources in August 2013 — five months before he started the CitiStat job.

In August 2013, the state department awarded a three-year, $481,500 contract to Grimes Legal Group. Grimes' wife, Meisha McGuire Grimes, was an administrator at the department from 1999 to 2005.

The Grimes firm represents indigent and disabled adults in guardianship hearings on behalf of the state in Baltimore County.

Grimes' dual roles raised questions about whether he could juggle a private practice while working for taxpayers, especially as the CitiStat program was facing criticism for failing to hold regular meetings and produce reports.

As a result of The Sun's investigation, council members grilled Grimes at an April hearing, expressing concerns that CitiStat was failing to analyze data from the 311 call center, which fields complaints and requests for services. They also questioned Grimes about failing to complete CitiStat reports and post them online.

Grimes, who has been a city employee for 10 years, left his previous job as a city attorney in December 2013 amid concerns that he spent too much time on his private practice, according to sources with direct knowledge of the matter. The sources requested anonymity because it was a personnel matter.

This is not the first time CitiStat has come under scrutiny during Rawlings-Blake's tenure.

In 2012, The Sun reported that not a single CitiStat report had been posted since the mayor took office two years earlier. She named Chad Kenney as director in August 2012 but sought to remove him a year later to make way for Grimes.

Kenney is now director of a similar program in Cincinnati.

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