Changes to stadium authority proposed

House bill would rename agency, add to board's size and tighten state oversight

March 26, 2004|By June Arney | June Arney,SUN STAFF

Legislation that would rename the Maryland Stadium Authority, add several members to its board and bring it under additional governmental oversight is expected to clear the House this week after a furor over a critical state audit.

The new rules, being championed by Del. Dan K. Morhaim, a Baltimore County Democrat, were approved yesterday by the House subcommittee on operations which he chairs, and were expected to go to the full House by today.

If the bill becomes law, the authority would become the Maryland Development Authority and add three new voting members. Two non-voting lawmakers also would be added to the seven-member board. Additional rules would require the authority to be more closely aligned with the state's standard procurement policy.

"They understand that they're being observed very closely," Morhaim said. "We expect them to operate openly, honestly, competitively and cost-effectively."

Separate legislation sponsored by Morhaim calls for a study of other state entities currently exempt from state procurement regulations.

The proposed Stadium Authority legislation calls for the authority to develop a full set of procurement regulations by July 1, subject to approval of the Board of Public Works and the Administrative, Executive & Legislative Review Committee. The authority also would be required to report on its progress in correcting management problems identified in the audit, create a new bonus and compensation package and report by Dec. 1 on minority business participation in the contracts it lets.

Alison L. Asti, acting executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority, said her staff worked with lawmakers to craft the new name for the organization.

"Our mission has gotten much broader," she said yesterday. "This reflects that change."

Asti was named acting director last week after the resignation of Richard W. Slosson, who had served as the agency's executive director since March 2000.

The critical audit revealed the existence of backdated memos documenting a $15,000 bonus awarded to Slosson and that he had accepted gifts from a company that was doing business with the authority. It also showed shortcuts in the bidding of $66 million of construction contracts under his watch.

The authority submitted a draft version of procurement policies last week and will continue to refine them, Asti said.

"The only concern we have about the procurement language is that the policies don't impair our ability to move quickly," she said. "The biggest advantage to our exemption is we're not held back by some of the time requirements in the procurement law. We believe we can adopt procurement regulations that enable us to have a fair and competitive process but still allow us to move quickly."

The proposed additional board members would include the state secretary of budget and management, the state treasurer, and a third voting member to be jointly named by the House speaker and the Senate president. One non-voting member each would be chosen from the House and the Senate, under the proposed legislation.

"I would have preferred that they give me and my board another year to work together," said Carl A.J. Wright, chairman of the authority board since July 2003. "We've been much more active and much more involved over the last year, so I would have preferred no changes. Adding more people to the board, to me, just makes the process more difficult."

"I think they have a strong sense of what we expect," Morhaim said yesterday. "I'm optimistic they'll live up to this. But if they don't, we'll be there."

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