Delegate calls state-sponsored trip inappropriate use of an employee's time


February 17, 1992|By David Conn | David Conn,Annapolis Bureau

ANNAPOLIS -- The state's economic development agency i calling its "Maryland Marathon Baseball Day" good for Maryland's economy and good for the private tour operator industry.

But one legislator and some industry members are calling it other things: encroachment on the private sector's turf and a poorly conceived promotion, to boot.

The June 6 event is an all-day triple-header that will allow paying participants to drive from Hagerstown in the morning to Frederick in the afternoon for minor league games, and finally to Camden Yards for a night Orioles game. Transportation and lodging are not included.

The program, sponsored by the Department of Economic and Employment Development, is being sold to the public: $50 per person or $129 for the "Homerun Package," which includes meals and sports memorabilia.

Tour operators can buy the package at a discount and resell it with transportation and lodging included.

Del. Ellen R. Sauerbrey, R-Baltimore Co., notified of the program by a tour operator who was angry about the competition, questioned "what the state of Maryland is doing in the tour and travel business. . . . I think this is an inappropriate use of a state employee's time," she wrote to DEED Secretary Mark L. Wasserman before the agency unveiled the program publicly last week.

Mr. Wasserman responded in a letter that the event promotes the baseball industry in Maryland and "has tremendous potential for national publicity."

The National Tour Association in Kentucky has no major problems with the program, but local tour operators aren't sold. "If they make money off it, what's to stop them from saying, 'Let's do a day in Annapolis, or let's do a day in Ocean City?' " said Charles Mellin, owner of Leisure Travel Ltd. in Howard County.

Jeff Barber, vice president for marketing at All Seasons Group Tours in Baltimore, wasn't as concerned about DEED as a competitor. "This went into the circular file," he said. "It's not a marketable product."

900 numbers

Are you as upset about 900 telephone lines as Sen. George W. Della Jr., D-Baltimore? "In all honesty, I'd like to do away with all 900 numbers," he told his fellow Finance Committee members last Wednesday. "I think they're the biggest pain in the tail to ever come along."

Recognizing the constitutional hurdles barring outright abolition, Senator Della last week explained an alternative: Senate Bill 499 would require the phone company to inform consumers of their right to dispute phone charges for services not provided. It also would require the company to remove any charges when the customer's complaint is justified.

One woman testified that she made a $39.99 900-line call to receive a credit card. The card never came and the phone company wouldn't remove the charge because she acknowledged that she had made the call.

Representatives of C&P, AT&T, Sprint and MCI don't like the bill. They said they usually remove disputed charges without waiting for a written complaint, as the bill requires. They especially don't like the provision that makes them the agent of process for the 900-line company if a customer sues.

This week

Tomorrow, Senate Judicial Proceedings will hear the IOTA/IOLTA bills. Those bills would prevent title companies from keeping the interest on money held in escrow for clients. Under ** proposed legislation, the money would be used by the state for such things as legal services and housing for the poor.

On Wednesday and Thursday, House Economic Matters and Senate Finance, respectively, will debate bills to repeal or modify prevailing wage legislation, which requires most public works projects to pay a sort of minimum wage for construction workers.

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