Delegate has job with city, but what is it?

December 05, 1993|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Staff Writer

Nearly everybody in Maryland politics knows what Paul Weisengoff does in the House of Delegates. For 27 years, the cigar-chomping, back room deal-maker has represented South Baltimore's 47th District.

It's what he does on city time that's hard to figure out.

Mr. Weisengoff's legislative salary is $28,000, and the financially troubled Baltimore City Department of Education pays him $45,000 -- ostensibly for working.

But you won't find him at school headquarters on North Avenue or in any city public school.

In fact, he doesn't even have an assigned desk anywhere in city government.

So what does the 61-year-old politician do for the city?

Mr. Weisengoff says he gives political advice to Baltimore's lobbyists.

Working sometimes on City Hall's sixth floor at a spare desk, sometimes in Annapolis and sometimes at home, he reads education periodicals and letters from other legislators, arranges visits by legislators to city schools -- although there haven't been any this year -- and helps city lobbyist Henry Bogdan formulate Baltimore's strategy on education bills and other city matters, Mr. Weisengoff says.

He was assigned this work, he said, by former Mayor Clarence "Du" Burns in 1987, after working in other administrative jobs at the Department of Education for several years.

"I'm uniquely qualified for that. I use my experience to make it easier for the city to be successful in the General Assembly. And that entails an awful lot of different kind of work. It entails PR work with the other legislators. Much of it has to do with looking at newspapers," Mr. Weisengoff said recently.

In addition, he spends four months a year on the city's Combined Charity Campaign, soliciting contributions from city employees.

Mr. Weisengoff has been working for Mr. Bogdan for a number of years, but several key staffers in the school system, at City Hall and in the legislature say they rarely see him in his second job and don't know what he does.

It's even hard to figure out who his boss is.

Nat Harrington, the spokesman for the city schools, says Mr. Weisengoff is assigned to work for mayoral aide Peter Marudas, who in turn assigns Mr. Weisengoff to work for Mr. Bogdan, who lobbies on behalf of the Schmoke administration in Annapolis.

But Mr. Bogdan says this:

"I don't keep his time. I don't assign him major projects. His time, I understand, is kept in [the Education Department]. . . . He's available to me a great deal of that time. I use him for advice, to review materials I have, to discuss issues, discuss politics, and I try to get as much value out of that time as I can."

In addition to working at City Hall, Mr. Harrington says, Mr. Weisengoff also "answers to [schools Superintendent] Walter G. Amprey through Jeanette Evans," Mr. Amprey's chief of staff.

"Jeanette Evans?" asked Mr. Weisengoff, expressionless, when asked whether he reports to her.

"I don't know Jeanette Evans. I know the name only. I don't remember dealing with her at all," he said.

Jeanette Evans says she has only occasional contact with Mr. Weisengoff, but "not a lot. Periodically we chat about what he's doing."

Like Mr. Bogdan, Ms. Evans says she is not Mr. Weisengoff's supervisor. But she says Mr. Weisengoff is required to report his whereabouts daily to Dr. Amprey's secretary.

Debbie Gray, the superintendent's secretary, said Mr. Weisengoff calls in his weekly attendance and lets her know when he is out sick. But she said, "I don't have his schedule. He reports to City Hall, so I guess they have his weekly calendar."

"I don't have contact with Dr. Amprey," Mr. Weisengoff says. "My job is basically down here [in City Hall] to assist the liaison group [lobbyists] to become successful, and we've been successful."

Dr. Amprey says that though Mr. Weisengoff works at City Hall, "I see and talk to him all the time. He is helpful in helping us understand where legislators would stand on the issues."

He says that in addition to working with Mr. Bogdan, Mr. Weisengoff answers to Lester McCrea, the executive assistant to the school board.

But Mr. McCrea -- like Ms. Evans and Mr. Bogdan -- says he is not Mr. Weisengoff's supervisor.

"I don't have much contact with Paul," said Mr. McCrea, who assigned Mr. Weisengoff to work on the charity campaign.

"The best I can tell you is that he works for Henry Bogdan in City Hall."

Asked about Mr. Weisengoff's city job, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said he thought the legislator worked for the Department of Education and added, "I'm not familiar with his duties."

When he retires, Mr. Weisengoff will collect two government pensions -- one from his schools job and one from his state delegate job.

Asked how much time he spends on his city job, Mr. Weisengoff said, "I'm on call all the time. I spend a full day and then some. To give you an idea of how difficult it gets, you get all wound up with a report. I take a bath and read it while I'm taking a bath.

"If you want to know the truth, it's an all-day job. It's not an eight-hour job, it's an on-call job," he said.

Is he worth his city paycheck?

"They don't pay me enough," Mr. Weisengoff said. "Because I'm good, I'm successful."

It is not unusual for elected members of the General Assembly to hold second jobs in local government.

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