Ambridge may oversee real estate Baltimore councilman likely will be Henson's successor, sources say

Pratt has 'made a decision'

Comptroller says she will have news release on city post tomorrow

June 09, 1996|By Robert Guy Matthews | Robert Guy Matthews,SUN STAFF

Longtime Baltimore Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge may quit his seat to run the city's real estate office -- the $79,000-a-year job recently vacated under a cloud of controversy by Comptroller Joan M. Pratt's campaign manager.

Pratt -- who interviewed 11 others for the job -- has been meeting secretly with Ambridge for the past month, according to sources in City Hall. The announcement could come early tomorrow.

Neither Pratt nor Ambridge would confirm the appointment to oversee the city's $3.2 billion real estate portfolio. The job has been vacant since Julius Henson was forced out in April.

"I've made a decision, and I will have a press release on Monday," Pratt said yesterday.

"It is not my place to make an announcement," Ambridge said. "That's her gig."

Pratt said there were two candidates other than Ambridge whom she seriously considered, but she would not reveal their names.

Ambridge, who is a licensed real estate appraiser and heads the council's Land Use Committee, is second in seniority on the council. He has represented the 2nd District since 1983 and is a consultant and appraiser for some area businesses and unions. His council salary is $36,000 per year.

As a councilman, Ambridge has been a frequent critic of the Schmoke administration. It is likely that whoever would replace him would be a Schmoke supporter, because the choice would be in the hands of the other two 2nd District representatives -- Paula Johnson Branch and Robert L. Douglass, avid backers of the administration. Their candidate would be subject to the approval of a majority of the council, however.

Branch said yesterday that she had no candidate in mind because she had not heard that Ambridge might leave his post. Douglass could not be reached for comment.

Ambridge said Friday that he has grown increasingly frustrated as a council member and views the legislative panel as too concerned with placating the mayor.

"I think the council could be stronger, and I think the system is broken," Ambridge said.

Ambridge tried unsuccessfully to lead a charge against the mayor last week as the council considered Schmoke's $2.3 billion budget proposal.

He wanted to distribute money among schools more equitably but found little support from his colleagues.

"Quite frankly, I'm disappointed the council did not follow my lead in that education budget," he said, adding that to some members, "it doesn't matter what is right or wrong, but if you have the votes."

Ambridge said he is "taking inventory" of himself.

Several council members said recently that Ambridge has been hinting that he wanted to leave.

"Look, I have been offered positions through the years," Ambridge said.

"This is just another decision I have to make."

Ambridge praised Pratt -- elected in November to the city's third-highest office -- as a responsible, hard worker who has the ability to lead the city in a new, better direction.

But Pratt came under heavy criticism from other elected officials and the public in April when she hired Henson, her campaign manager and close friend, as the city's real estate officer.

Pratt forced Henson to resign after three weeks when The Sun reported that he had given conflicting accounts of his professional background and that he had been sued several times for improper repair work to his own rental properties.

Ambridge said he last spoke with Pratt on Thursday. He said their meeting was informal.

In previous meetings, the two have discussed their "hopes and dreams for the city," Ambridge said.

He also said he has advised her on issues regarding legislation.

"I went out of my way to know her. We are on the same team," Ambridge said.

Pub Date: 6/09/96

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