Parks chief is observed commuting Residency rule may be violated

May 30, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

At a time when Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is requiring all new city employees to reside in Baltimore, the city's director of recreation and parks appears to be living in a Prince George's County home that she has owned since 1980.

From Monday through Friday last week, Marlyn J. Perritt -- whose position requires her to live in the city -- was observed by a Sun reporter leaving her home on a quiet cul-de-sac in Mitchellville to commute to her office in Druid Hill Park.

On four of those days, Ms. Perritt was seen at Baltimore's Penn Station a little more than an hour after leaving home. She was met by a chauffeur-driven city car.

In two interviews Friday, Ms. Perritt insisted that she was "absolutely" a city resident. Asked in the first interview when she had last spent the night in Baltimore, she said, "I think it was Monday." Told that she had been observed leaving her house on Tuesday morning, she said, "Maybe it was last Thursday. Maybe it was last Friday."

In a second interview, later in the day, she said that her husband reminded her that they had spent Wednesday evening overnight in the city. Informed that she had been seen leaving her Mitchellville house Thursday morning, she said she was mistaken.

The question of Ms. Perritt's residency comes just two weeks after Mayor Schmoke issued an executive order requiring all new municipal workers to become city residents within a year after the start of their employment. The May 14 order covers all employees hired July 1 or later and requires that they must remain residents of the city to keep their jobs.

A separate requirement, which has been part of the City Charter since 1975, requires the heads of all city bureaus and departments such as Ms. Perritt to become Baltimore residents and voters within six months of the dates of their appointments. If they do not do so, the charter provides that their appointment "shall be terminated."

Ms. Perritt, who has been the city's director of recreation and parks since January 1990, said she typically spends "between five and seven days a week" at the city-owned recreation and parks director's house in Clifton Park.

Recovering from surgery

Last week she said she "made numerous trips to the Washington area" to be with a married daughter, who she said was hospitalized with an undiagnosed illness at a suburban Washington hospital. Asked to provide her daughter's name to verify her hospitalization, Ms. Perritt declined. "That's really, really personal," she said.

Also, Ms. Perritt said she spent six weeks in her Mitchellville home in March and April recovering from open heart surgery at the same hospital.

As the director of recreation and parks, Ms. Perritt, 55, oversees an agency with an annual budget of $33 million and about 700 employees. The former longtime District of Columbia city employee earns $74,000 a year.

Cookout for Cabinet

Mayor Schmoke said through spokesman Clinton R. Coleman on Friday, "To the best of my knowledge, Ms. Perritt's primary residence is in the facility set aside for the director of recreation and parks in Clifton Park. The only time I have knowledge that she was not there was when she was recuperating from surgery."

Mr. Schmoke also said through Mr. Coleman that Ms. Perritt had invited him to the Clifton Park house "on a number of occasions and had the entire Cabinet there for a cookout last summer."

Since the mayor announced the new residency policy May 13, the issue has been a source of controversy among city employees and elected officials from outside the city.

At his news conference that day, Mr. Schmoke was asked specifically whether all department heads lived in the city, as required by the charter. The mayor said that they did.

Mr. Schmoke said at the time that he was imposing the measure to produce increased tax revenues for the city and to encourage upper-income employees, who are more likely to live outside the city than lower-paid workers, to "participate in the neighborhoods" and "be active in their communities."

Pays city taxes

But critics -- including Gov. William Donald Schaefer -- contend it will hinder recruitment of qualified workers, discriminate against suburbanites and possibly erode support for the city in the General Assembly. Already, two suburban legislators have vowed to introduce a bill in the 1994 session prohibiting any jurisdiction from discriminating in employment against state residents based on where they live.

Ms. Perritt, who is registered to vote in Baltimore at the Clifton Park address, said she pays city income taxes but owns no property in the city. She said her husband, a retired D.C. government employee, and a second grown daughter live at the Mitchellville home. Her husband stays with her at the two-story frame house near the tee to the 13th green at the Clifton Park Golf Course on an occasional basis, she said.

Place to retire

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