Officials to boycott Ehrlich ceremony

Governor is taking credit for vehicle buys, they say

February 02, 2005|By Andrew A. Green | Andrew A. Green,SUN STAFF

Some local officials are boycotting an event today at which Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. plans to ceremonially hand over the keys to armored police vehicles, saying he is trying to take credit for a local initiative.

The Maryland Emergency Management Agency acted as a middleman for federal homeland security money used to buy the armored vehicles, but the state was not involved in the decision to buy them or in the actual purchase, local officials said.

Some of the seven jurisdictions have had the vehicles for a month. In order for the governor to hand the keys to local officials at today's event, MEMA requested that police departments that have the armored trucks drive them to Annapolis.

Howard County Executive James N. Robey and Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley both have declined to attend.

"It does concern us a bit that this announcement is being made in this form," said Robey spokeswoman Victoria Goodman. "The decision and the concept to purchase these came out of our metropolitan council work group and the member jurisdictions, which did not include a state representative. ... The executive will not be attending the announcement. Neither will his police chief."

O'Malley spokesman Stephen Kearney said the governor played no substantive role in purchasing the vehicles.

"When you can't have a press conference about what you've done, I guess you have no choice but to have one about what others have done," Kearney said. O'Malley, a Democrat, has said he is preparing a challenge to Ehrlich, a Republican, in the 2006 gubernatorial race.

But Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver said today's event with the governor is appropriate because the Maryland Emergency Management Agency helped coordinate the purchase.

Adj. Gen. Bruce F. Tuxill of the Maryland National Guard, who oversees MEMA, said that besides serving as a middleman for the federal funds, the state also checked to make sure the equipment meets the terms of the federal grant.

"That's a big thing," he said.

The group of local officials, which had representatives from Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties and the cities of Annapolis and Baltimore, decided to spend $1.4 million on the armored vehicles, designed to transport police and rescue workers in and out of dangerous situations.

Representatives of some jurisdictions said their top elected officials -- including the Democratic executives from Baltimore and Anne Arundel counties -- will attend the event.

Jan Hardesty, a spokeswoman for Annapolis Mayor Ellen O. Moyer, said the governor's involvement is appropriate.

"It is coming through the state of Maryland ... the idea of it being to protect all of us," Hardesty said.

Kristin M. Mahoney, the chief of technical services for the Baltimore Police Department, said that after the local officials decided the armored vehicles were a top homeland security priority, Baltimore County agreed to advance the money to purchase the vehicles for the group.

Because of the way the federal program is set up, the county requested reimbursement from MEMA, which then requested reimbursement from the federal Department of Homeland Security, she said.

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