How to Redo an OfficeWhen Commissioner Ben Brown went on a...


January 15, 1995

How to Redo an Office

When Commissioner Ben Brown went on a buying binge for the purpose of beautifying his new office, he not only felt the taxpayers' wrath, but he also violated every cardinal rule that most politicians learn early on in their careers, especially if they want to survive. . . .

My regret is that I didn't have a chance to see Ben before he embarked on this perilous course. I think I could have saved him from himself and the embarrassment of being put in the pillory of both the news media and an irate public.

I had planned on giving him a guide book I picked up in Washington years ago, which serves as a bible for many successful politicians and high-level government officials. Its title "How to Acquire and Retain an Opulent Office." It was recently declassified so there would have been no problem in releasing it to him.

Although it is obviously too late to help him now, here are some of the basic rules . . .

* Rule 1: Don't buy anything for at least six months after you take office. Spend that time making your list of what you want for your office, including diagrams showing where everything will be placed.

* Rule 2: Find out quickly who on your staff can be trusted to keep their mouths shut and, more importantly, who the potential finks are.

* Rule 3: Start early on bringing items in from your home, but do it gradually. Big plants and large paintings are ideal. This will make it harder down the road for outsiders to distinguish what is yours and what you bought at taxpayer expense.

* Rule 4: When you start buying things for your office, don't do it all at once. Piecemeal it. A chair one month, a desk months later, drapes months later still.

* Rule 5: Have bulk deliveries made after hours or on the weekends.

* Rule 6 (the most important): The following precautions must be strictly observed to reduce the possibility of anyone detecting what you pulled off.

A.) Don't let reporters into your office. Talk to them in the reception area or on the street. News people might ask questions like, "Is that a solid walnut desk?" "Could that be Chippendale furniture in the corner?" "Can I see that piece of Waterford crystal in your cabinet?," etc.

B.) Keep the lights out when you are not in your office and the door closed. That's a good idea when you are there, too, but not if your secretary is in there with you. That could give rise to other suspicions.

C.) If you are fortunate enough to have a wet bar, conceal it with a large floor plant.

D.) If, horror of horrors, your cover is blown and the public gets wind of it, keep your mouth shut and let your in-house "spin doctor" speak for you.

Again, I'm sorry I didn't get to see Ben before the ceiling caved in on him. I'm not talking about his office ceiling, of course. That would never happen after spending more than $6,000 and 250 man-hours to redo his office.

David A. Grand


Real Heroes, Not This One

The recent article that appeared in a local newspaper revealing the rags to riches tale of our own local millionaire developer, entrepreneur, benefactor, philanthropist, etc., was amusing. The man made a fortune by turning pristine, rolling Carroll County farmland into row houses and red lights. While he was playing Monopoly, Carroll County taxpayers were personally paying each time he passed "GO" and they will be paying forever.

If he had made his fortune by applying his talents to the building of new homes in depressed areas of Baltimore city, his accomplishment would truly he noteworthy. It would also have helped to mitigate the moral imbalance introduced each time money is spent to provide services so developers can develop prime farmland. It is immoral to do this when complete facilities, including mass transportation, are already in place in neighborhoods that desperately need the stability and tax base that new homes bring. . . .

May I suggest that any future biographies of local business successes be of the Lippy Brothers of Hampstead. They grow food. They protect and improve farmland and, in the process, minimize the impact on the environment while growing crops that improve our quality of life. As far as I can determine, they also have grossed millions, but they have yet to require taxpayers to build more schools, hire more police, build more streets and roads, hire planning officers, develop impact studies and traffic studies, expand treatment plants, build by-passes, drill wells, impose water bans, etc.

Vince DePalmer


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