Mayor's staff expands despite cost-cutting moves Friends are hired, workers transferred from other agencies

January 28, 1996|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,SUN STAFF

Despite his calls for austerity in Baltimore government, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has continued to expand his own staff by transferring workers from other agencies and hiring political friends.

In the past four months, even as he ordered cost-cutting measures and a strict hiring freeze, Mr. Schmoke has spent tens of thousands in taxpayer dollars to boost his personal staff to its largest size in his tenure as mayor.

The jobs have inflated his lineup of "liaisons," well-paid aides with loosely defined responsibilities.

Overall, he is spending $169,800 in salaries and benefits for two new liaisons and an assistant on top of the $3.5 million budgeted for his office this fiscal year. A third staffer and secretary are "on loan" for an undetermined time from other city agencies.

The mayor now has a liaison with the public schools, two with the business community and five with governments at the local, state and federal levels. He also has a little-known "roving team" handling neighborhood problems.

Two of his government staffers used to be high-ranking administration officials, whom Mr. Schmoke ousted amid criticism that they were ineffectual.

In defending the expansion since his re-election to a third term last fall, Mr. Schmoke said he is trying to make the city government more "customer-friendly."

"In order to improve our responsiveness to various constituencies, we thought we should increase some of our staff," he said.

But Officer Gary McLhinney, president of the Baltimore police union, is critical because the city faces a budget shortfall. "The employees of the city are tired when someone who says the belt needs to be tightened is not tightening their own," he said.

All three of Mr. Schmoke's new staffers, each of whom is being paid about $60,000 a year, are familiar figures at City Hall. Vera P. Hall, his City Council liaison, and Wilbur E. "Bill" Cunningham, his economic development coordinator, were longtime council allies who lost their seats last fall. Lola Smith, his minority business person, headed the Equal Opportunity Compliance Office.

Mr. Schmoke's growing staff contrasts with the cuts he made in his early years. A review shows:

* His staff, handling everything from mail to speech-writing, has grown to 91, up from 78 in his first year in office in 1988. His predecessor, Clarence H. Du Burns, had 86.

Mr. Schmoke cut jobs in his first two years and whittled his staff to 71 by the early 1990s. His biggest increase since was to employ 16 mostly state-paid workers after the city's Urban Services Agency was disbanded in 1993.

* His budget for "executive direction and control," the main division, has grown from about $2.5 million in his early years to $3.1 million in the fiscal year that ends June 30.

* His office bureaucracy has expanded in ways that do not show up in budget books. Six people now are on loan from other agencies, including Ms. Smith, who still is on the Law Department's payroll, and a secretary for Mrs. Hall, from Public Works.

* Mr. Schmoke has a "roving team," little known even at City Hall and not listed on budget documents. The three men on the team act as neighborhood "trouble-shooters," checking on complaints about everything from garbage problems to drug dealing to gang activity.

Two of them, Darryn Henson, son of Housing Commissioner Daniel P. Henson III, and Malik Rahman, have been on loan so long from Public Works that the agency had no information on their employment. The third, Emmanuel Price, is listed among the mayor's "public information" staff.

* The largest spending increases have been for "intergovernmental relations," a broad category of jobs with no written descriptions.

Mayor's lobbyist

Mr. Schmoke long had a lobbyist, with a staff of four, in Annapolis and a lawyer working on Baltimore's behalf in Washington.

But in recent years, he also offered government and policy work to two department heads he removed under fire -- Robert W. Hearn, the former housing chief, and Honora M. Freeman, the one-time head of the Baltimore Development Corp.

The coordination of efforts in the City Council and state legislature used to be handled by one man, Peter N. Marudas, who was paid $86,600 a year. He left the Schmoke administration last year.

He was replaced by Ms. Freeman and Mrs. Hall, doubling the amount spent on legislative liaison, in part because Mrs. Hall brought along a $30,000-a-year assistant. Ms. Freeman makes $87,400 and is in charge of 17 people. Among them is the mayor's five-member General Assembly staff.

In describing her job, Ms. Freeman said, "There's a lot of work coordinating and advancing the city's interests where it's important to advance them."

One of her duties -- coordinating Mr. Schmoke's activities with the U.S. Conference of Mayors -- also was one that Mr. Hearn said he performed.

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