Curry's workload in doubt Fired library chief on city payroll as mayoral consultant

September 11, 1993|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Staff Writer Staff writer Rafael Alvarez contributed to this article.

When Anna Curry was fired as executive director of the Enoch Pratt Free Library late last year, the city agreed to hire her as a mayoral consultant for library services.

But while Mrs. Curry has been on the city payroll nine months, there is no visible evidence that she has done any consulting, and city officials -- including Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke -- cannot cite a single task she's performed to earn her $20,000 annual salary. Meanwhile, Mrs. Curry has turned down several requests to discuss her city contract.

Mrs. Curry is among about 200 consultants the city hires each year to provide services in a variety of areas ranging from architectural and engineering design to legal services.

Jacqueline F. McLean, the city comptroller, said Mrs. Curry's contract is "unusual" because she receives her annual payments in advance and because it is virtually impossible for city auditors to monitor her work.

"Agreements like [Mrs. Curry's] are very few and far between," she said. "Other consultants are not paid up front. They are usually paid as they send in invoices, when the project is completed. Once it's completed, auditors go in and make sure services were provided."

The circumstances leading to Mrs. Curry's consulting job also were unusual.

The library's trustees cited poor management as the reason for firing Mrs. Curry. She countered by filing a discrimination complaint with the the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

City records show that the Board of Estimates approved Mrs. Curry's consulting contract to settle the discrimination complaint. She also received an undisclosed amount of severance pay from the trustees.

Because the consulting contract was part of the settlement agreement, its terms were not revealed when the board approved it. A copy of the Mrs. Curry's contract, which was recently obtained by The Sun, states that the city agreed to pay her a total of $60,000 -- an average of $20,000 a year until 1995.

It decribes her duties this way: "Mrs. Curry shall perform such services and duties as will be directed by the Mayor or his designee concerning programs and projects involving the Library and related services."

Asked about the nature of Mrs. Curry's consulting work, Mr. Schmoke said she had agreed to do "outreach work" to encourage young men to use the library. But he was unable to say whether she had done any library-related work since she went on the city payroll.

Mr. Schmoke suggested that a reporter contact Mrs. Curry to find out what work she's been doing.

Reached at home, Mrs. Curry declined to discuss her job. She said it was a bad time to talk and asked the reporter to call another time. Efforts to reach her later were unsuccessful.

Meanwhile, library officials say Mrs. Curry is not doing any consulting work for the Pratt.

James A. Ulmer, president of the trustees for the Enoch Pratt Free Library, said that Mrs. Curry "has no library adviser role that has to do with us. As far as I know, she has had no contact with anyone in the library since December," when her retirement was effective.

Library spokeswoman Averil Kadis said, "The library has no consultant services or communication with Mrs. Curry."

Ms. McLean said she was surprised to hear that Mrs. Curry is not actively working at the library doing outreach work with young people.

"I'm floored," she said. "It was my understanding that she was supposed to work out of the main office of the Pratt Library because she has such a good relationship with young people."

Last month, the Board of Estimates approved another contract to employ a former city agency head who was previously fired.

For the fourth straight year, the city hired Lenwood Ivey, former head of the Urban Services Agency, to run the Baltimore City Foundation, a city-controlled charity that funnels private donations to city projects.

But Mr. Ivey's $44,564-a-year employment agreement with the city -- which is in addition to his $30,000 annual pension -- doesn't bother Ms. McLean.

Mrs. Curry's arrangement with the city is "not similar to Len Ivey's because he's visible. He has a telephone; he has an office; we know where to find him," she said.

Mr. Schmoke rehired Mr. Ivey in 1989 shortly after firing him as head of the troubled anti-poverty agency.

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke, who serves as president of the Board of Estimates, also was surprised to hear that library officials say Mrs. Curry is not working at the Pratt.

"There was never an agreement that Mrs. Curry would be paid simply as a settlement [of the discrimination complaint]. It was my clear understanding that she would be active in her areas of interest and strength. That is the way in which I would approve any expenditures," Ms. Clarke said.

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