A fight between the Schmoke administration and the City Council over whether the Housing Authority board chairman can disregard a council subpoena has reached the Court of Appeals.
Seven judges on Maryland's highest court are deciding whether Reginald C. Thomas, who in May on advice from the city's law department ignored the City Council subpoena, is subject to the power of the council.
The council wants Mr. Thomas to explain his role in the city's $25.6 million, no-bid public housing repair program.
The legal flap is the result of a clash over the merits of the no-bid repair program between 3rd District Councilman Martin O'Malley, who heads the Legislative Investigations Committee that issued the subpoena, and Schmoke administration officials.
When Mr. Thomas refused the subpoena, Mr. O'Malley filed a lawsuit last June.
Senior City Solicitor Burton H. Levin argued before the court Friday that Mr. O'Malley did not have the power to file the suit.
Mr. Levin said the City Charter requires that only the City Solicitor, Neal M. Janey, can file lawsuits.
He also told the panel of judges that Mr. O'Malley did not follow city procedure after the council passed a resolution May 8 allowing the committee to investigate the housing repair program.
The council never presented the resolution to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke for the chance to veto it, he said.
However, the mayor likely would have vetoed the resolution if given the chance, because it is the city's law department that is arguing against Mr. O'Malley.
And because the May 8 resolution passed only by a 10-8 vote, with one council member absent, the 13 votes required to override a mayoral veto would have been difficult to achieve.
A quick decision is expected by the court because a new council takes office Thursday.
If the judges rule in favor of Mr. O'Malley's committee, the council will have succeeded in stunting the Schmoke administration's attempt to limit the council's scope.
The no-bid program, which began in 1992 as a $1 million renovation project for certain public housing units in Baltimore, grew into a $25.6 million repair program that federal auditors found had risked millions on start-up construction firms with little experience.