City Council questions state's attorney's office

It asks how jobs will be funded in future

October 18, 2005|By JOHN FRITZE | JOHN FRITZE,SUN REPORTER

Four months after Baltimore political leaders struck rare harmony over how to fund the state's attorney's office, the City Council approved a resolution yesterday that questioned the office's management, threatening to rekindle discord.

The resolution, by City Councilman James B. Kraft, asks State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy to explain why so many members of her staff are funded with short-term grants and how she plans to pay for those positions with more stable revenue in the future.

A hearing on the issue has not been scheduled.

The resolution, which passed 14-1, comes four months after Jessamy and Mayor Martin O'Malley struck a deal that added about $2.8 million to the state's attorney budget to fund 11 initiatives related to juvenile crime, domestic violence and gun prosecutions.

Kraft said that Jessamy, at the time, agreed to come back to the council to explain her long-term financial plans.

"It's just a follow-up," he said.

Jessamy spokeswoman Margaret T. Burns said her office will comply with the request, but she also said a large share of the money the mayor promised this past June has not arrived. The council must approve a supplemental ordinance to appropriate the new funding, and that has not taken place.

Burns would not say that the resolution was premature, but did say her office was unclear on exactly how much money it could expect.

"We have not seen a request for the money. We don't know what the exact amount of money is," Burns said.

Of the 391 positions in Jessamy's office, 280 are paid for with general funds and 111 are covered by grants, according to the resolution. Several council members said that arrangement could translate into layoffs if the grants expire.

O'Malley administration officials said they expect the appropriation to be sent to the council in about two weeks. They said the state's attorney's office can fund all its prosecutors through the end of the year and that no layoffs will be necessary.

"There's already been a commitment for the money," said Deputy Mayor Jeanne D. Hitchcock.

Yesterday's squabble - which appeared to be driven largely by miscommunication rather than outright anger - was the latest spat in a longstanding tense relationship between the two offices.

In the past, Jessamy argued that the mayor shortchanged her agency for years and said that the expiration of grants would force her to eliminate jobs unless the city boosted her budget.

john.fritze@baltsun.com

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