O'Malley, deputy mayor defend brothers' hiring

Mayor calls them `loyal,' `qualified,' right for city jobs

September 01, 2000|By Peter Hermann and Gerard Shields | Peter Hermann and Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

The younger brother of Mayor Martin O'Malley's top aide has been hired as the $60,000-a-year assistant director of public affairs for the Baltimore Police Department, an appointment that is raising questions about nepotism at City Hall.

Kevin J. Enright, 34, who was hired by the city police Aug. 10, is the brother of First Deputy Mayor Michael R. Enright, 37, who has been O'Malley's close friend since high school and was best man at the mayor's wedding.

Meanwhile, O'Malley's younger brother, Peter, has been working side by side with the elder Enright to computerize city services. The University of Baltimore Law School graduate is being paid $36,000 under a six-month grant that began in June from the nonprofit Abell Foundation.

The mayor defended the moves yesterday and said that from the outset of being elected, he has intended to surround himself with aides he could trust.

"We're looking for people who are loyal and understand the goals of this administration," O'Malley said.

Concerning the Police Department's hiring of the younger Enright, the mayor said: "No one can say Kevin isn't qualified for this job."

The head of the state's most visible public advocacy group for tougher ethics laws said that although the hirings do not seem to violate city laws or rules, the appearance is troubling.

Kathleen S. Skullney, executive director of Common Cause/Maryland, said the hiring of family members erodes the credibility of a mayor who was elected last year on a campaign theme of "change and reform."

"Reform is reform at all levels," Skullney said. "A conflict of interest hurts [the mayor's] credibility no matter how trusted these people are. And credibility is a priceless thing to lose for a reformer."

City Council President Sheila Dixon, the city's second-highest elected official, said she had been told by the mayor of Enright's hiring. Her spokesman, Jason Young, said the council leader is reserving judgment until Enright's qualifications are examined further.

The younger Enright, who was an Emmy Award-winning television reporter in Washington, beat out several applicants from inside and outside the Police Department for the position.

The job is not a civil service position; he serves at the pleasure of Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris and answers to the agency's director of public information, Ragina C. Averella, who earns $64,000 a year.

Questions expected

Norris said yesterday that he had been looking for an assistant public relations director with experience in television. He said he mentioned this to Deputy Mayor Enright, who told him that his brother was considering leaving his reporting job at WUSA-TV.

The commissioner said he was impressed with Kevin Enright but delayed hiring him for several weeks because he knew there would be concern over the close relationship with his brother.

"His last name hurt him in the hiring process," Norris said. "I knew it would cause questions."

He said there was no pressure from the deputy mayor. Asked who hired Kevin Enright, the commissioner said: "I did."

Norris also noted that Kevin Enright had been offered a job in the private sector that paid $100,000 a year and that he took a pay cut to come to Baltimore.

"I knew this was coming," Kevin Enright said of the questions raised by his posting. "I wanted to work in public service. I knew about the excitement that the O'Malley campaign was generating. Commissioner Norris is a hard guy not to like."

Grumbling over taking credit

There was grumbling at City Hall this week after Enright gave a television station crime statistics after an interview with Norris. Officials were upset that the crime figures showing a glowing 12 percent drop were publicized when O'Malley was out of the country.

"Politically, the mayor might want to take credit for it, and rightly so," a police official said. Aides described the mayor as angry, but said they were reluctant to blame Kevin Enright because his brother is the deputy mayor.

Kevin Enright said he gave the numbers to a television reporter by phone after Norris promised the figures to the station during his interview. The new police spokesman said he has not used his brother's position to curry special treatment or protection.

"I have spoken with my bother once professionally in three weeks since I've been here," Kevin Enright said. "We talk less now that I'm here."

He also said he does not believe his brother pulled strings to get him hired. "I don't think he'd do that for me," the younger Enright said.

Michael Enright, who formerly worked as a top assistant to O'Malley's father-in-law, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., confirmed his brother's account of the hiring.

He said he suggested that Norris meet his brother, and that was the end of his involvement.

"I don't expect anybody to believe me when I say my little brother will be a great asset to Baltimore City," the deputy mayor said. "So I would urge anybody to check out his background, track record, resume and references."

`Tremendous endorsements'

O'Malley defended the hiring of his own younger brother - who directed his successful mayoral campaign last year - for Enright's staff.

The younger O'Malley joined the mayor's staff as a volunteer in February and stayed with the city when the grant came through in June.

The mayor said Peter O'Malley's organization skills are needed for revamping city government.

"Peter is very talented and works hard and has really been at the center of this whole re-engineering of city government," O'Malley said. "For a 30-year-old guy, he has a reputation that is statewide for analyzing data."

Robert C. Embry Jr., president of the Abell Foundation, said that the organization reviewed O'Malley's qualifications before granting the city the funding.

"He received tremendous endorsements," Embry said.

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