Armstrong is dropped as city tourism consultant

Convention bureau severs ties with ousted CEO

he will still be paid $166,753

March 15, 2003|By June Arney and Bill Atkinson | June Arney and Bill Atkinson,SUN STAFF

Hoping to quell a growing storm of protest, Baltimore's convention bureau severed all ties yesterday with its ousted chief executive, whose consulting relationship had been roundly criticized by city and state officials and industry experts.

Carroll R. Armstrong, who was forced to resign last month after heading the Baltimore Area Convention and Visitors Association for seven years, will still be paid the $166,753 he would have received as a consultant.

The announcement was made last night by Clarence T. Bishop, chairman of the visitors bureau's board of directors.

"I hope that for all members, this reflects our commitment to continual rethinking how BACVA can best move ahead, and concludes an important phase in our transition and growth," he wrote in a letter to the organization's members.

Pressure grew this week on BACVA to terminate its arrangement with Armstrong after a blistering evaluation by an outside consulting firm became public.

In an 83-page document, Armstrong was criticized for mismanagement and for inflating records that wrongfully showed BACVA was meeting or surpassing its business goals.

The report, prepared by Performance Management Inc., of Stamford, Conn., noted that Armstrong and three other BACVA executives received bonuses based in part on the inflated figures.

The evaluation followed the publication of articles in The Sun in June, which reported that the $151 million expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center had failed to live up to projections.

Mayor Martin O'Malley said earlier this week that he initially was unaware that Armstrong would be retained as a consultant for BACVA. He questioned whether the arrangement was "appropriate."

The mayor asked Bishop, the BACVA chairman and O'Malley's chief of staff, whether the deal could be abandoned.

The mayor, however, was aware of BACVA's decision to retain Armstrong as a paid consultant for seven weeks before raising a concern.

In a statement from his office Jan. 23, the day Armstrong's decision to resign became public, O'Malley praised him, saying he "did a good job heading BACVA." The mayor added: "I am pleased to hear that he will be available to us in a consultant capacity, that we might take advantage of his expertise."

Armstrong, who resigned effective Feb. 1, received a settlement of $166,753 in lieu of the severance package specified in his contract that would have paid him $272,869 over 18 months.

Armstrong could not be reached for comment last night. His attorney, former Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, did not return phone calls.

In a statement issued last night through a spokeswoman, O'Malley said he is "pleased that a decision has been reached. Hopefully we can now return the focus to the improvements already under way at BACVA and continue to promote the city and our convention and visitor business."

He also said he "hopes that this agreement will give Carroll some relief from the unrelenting media coverage. He's a good man, and we wish him well."

When Armstrong's departure and consulting agreement were announced, BACVA also said he would be a member of the search committee that would find his successor. That arrangement also drew heavy criticism, and the search committee has since said Armstrong's role with the group has ended.

Retaining Armstrong in a formal capacity was recommended by Performance Management, several sources close to the BACVA board have said, as a way to save face for Armstrong as well as BACVA.

The CEO of the consulting firm said yesterday that the idea for a "soft landing" was not proposed by his company.

That strategy was "a board initiative," said David Camner, founder of Performance Management.

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