Henson couldn't do the job Real estate chief: Resignation means comptroller can hire someone who will help city.

April 13, 1996

IT MADE NO SENSE for Comptroller Joan M. Pratt to hire her former campaign manager, Julius Henson, to run the city real estate office. She's not the first public official to find a job in City Hall for a friend. But the post she gave Mr. Henson is too important to Baltimore to entrust to someone who so obviously lacks the right training and background.

Mr. Henson has shown considerable talent when it comes to running a political campaign. Let him find some other endeavor to remain occupied and financially secure until the next election opportunity presents itself. Ms. Pratt must keep him as far away from her office as possible, unless she wants to perpetuate the impression she has created that Mr. Henson's control over her goes beyond political advice.

In a parting shot at Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Mr. Henson himself provided ample reason for his replacement by someone more knowledgeable. "The administration is afraid of competent people who are going to disagree with them," he said. His own limited real estate experience, ownership of some rental houses that have been repeatedly cited for code violations, hardly makes Mr. Henson "competent" to handle the city's extensive real-estate portfolio.

Others beside Mr. Henson have suggested some real estate transactions have not been handled in the best interests of the city. Ms. Pratt should hire someone who has a firm grasp of commercial real estate transactions and can spot those that are designed to pay off political debts. Instead of appointing a friend, she must take the time to do a thorough talent search to find credible candidates who can be interviewed for the position.

Only five months into her term, Ms. Pratt needs to salvage her credibility as comptroller. She can do so only by demonstrating an integrity voters thought she had when she was elected. They knew very little about her, but were comforted by the fact that she was pushed to run by her church. Baltimoreans were hurt when she pulled a stunt they might expect from any old political hack.

Getting rid of Mr. Henson is only a first step. Next, Ms. Pratt should take away one of the jobs of Danice H. Lewis, who serves as both the comptroller's executive administrative assistant and as treasurer of her continuing political campaign committee. The person who opens bids for the city shouldn't be soliciting campaign money for anyone. Ms. Pratt ought to know by now that the comptroller's office must be free of any suggestion of impropriety.

Pub Date: 4/13/96

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