Perritt's hat and other mysteries

June 11, 1993

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke is a trusting man. Even after troubling questions were raised recently about whether Recreations and Parks Director Marlyn J. Perritt complies with a city charter requirement and actually lives in Baltimore, the mayor decided to stand by his cabinet member.

"She assured me she was complying with the charter," the mayor said. "I have no reason to think otherwise. I'm satisfied."

It apparently does not take much to satisfy the mayor. No probe was conducted into observations by this newspaper that Ms. Perritt commuted from her Prince George's County home to her office in Druid Hill Park office on five consecutive days. (On four of those days, a reporter saw the rec director arriving at Baltimore's Penn Station, where she was met by a chauffeur-driven city car).

All this has upset municipal unions. Their future rank and file members will be required to live in or move to the city as a condition of employment as of July 1, under an executive order from the mayor. "I'm appalled," said William V. Taylor, president of Firefighters Local 734. "I disagree with the executive order to start with, but if it applies to one, it should apply to all."

We think it is appalling for the mayor to close his eyes to Ms. Perritt's apparent circumventing of the city charter, while he insists that the small fry comply with residency requirements.

When she took the job, Ms. Perritt knew what the conditions were. If she cannot live by those conditions -- in an official residence provided by the taxpayers! -- she should pack her bags and hang her hat somewhere else. Why should the city spend money on a chauffeur to whisk her from the train station to her office every morning?

This occasion prompts another question about Ms. Perritt's leadership. Lawns in some parks have recently been cut in such unsightly way that, according to Mayor Schmoke, they resemble "Don King's haircut."

When asked about the situation, Ms. Perritt indicated that a long-standing mowing policy had been changed by her department's employees without her knowledge or approval. Yet she is the boss. It's her job to make sure that employees perform their jobs properly.

Instead of rolling his eyes and pretending nothing is amiss, the mayor ought to look into the facts of the Perritt situation and take appropriate action. The stringent residency requirement was his idea. Let him show how it works.

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