State Digest

STATE DIGEST

November 21, 2006

Trade center sale is put on hold

The Maryland Department of Transportation's proposed sale of the World Trade Center in Baltimore passed a key deadline yesterday without a deal, ensuring that no transaction will be approved before a new state administration takes over.

Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said yesterday that no agreement would be reached on the sale of the Inner Harbor tower before the deadline for it to be brought before the Board of Public Works on Jan. 3, the last meeting of the current three-member board.

Sale of the 31-story landmark, headquarters of the Maryland Port Administration, has been on Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s agenda. With Mayor Martin O'Malley's election as governor-elect, the future of the tower is in question.

One member of the current Board of Public Works, state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, has questioned whether the state could receive top dollar for the property with its current low occupancy rate. One incoming member of the board, Comptroller-elect Peter Franchot, opposes the sale.

O'Malley, who will succeed Ehrlich on the board Jan. 17, has not taken a public position on the matter. O'Malley spokesman Steve Kearney said yesterday that "we look forward to looking at all the facts and making a decision."

Before a contract could go to the board, it would be subject to a 45-day legislative comment period. "We handled this in a normal course of business," Flanagan said.

Franchot said Flanagan had made a "sound" decision not to bring a deal before the outgoing board. "I agree with [the late Comptroller] Louis Goldstein. We should not sell state assets unless there's a compelling reason," Franchot said.

Michael Dresser

Baltimore

JHU president's pay 5th-highest among research universities

Johns Hopkins University President William R. Brody's take-home pay of $837,016 made him the fifth-highest-paid president of a major U.S. research university in 2005, according to an annual survey released yesterday.

The list, compiled by The Chronicle of Higher Education, is based on university tax documents.

When taking into account leaders of all private higher education institutions, Brody is in 15th place. At the top of the earner's list is Wilmington College President Audrey K. Doberstein, whose total compensation package was more than $2.7 million. In all, 112 college presidents and university-system leaders made more than $500,000 in the year surveyed, a doubling over the previous year, according to the Chronicle.

The highest-paid leader of a public university was the University of Delaware's David P. Roselle, whose $979,571 package included $729,054 in salary and $250,517 in benefits.

University System of Maryland Chancellor William S. Kirwan had the richest compensation package among the state's public education leaders, at $519,900.

Among leaders of art and music colleges, the $366,520 paid in 2005 to Fred Lazarus of Maryland Institute College of Art made him the seventh-highest-paid in the country.

Gadi Dechter

Worcester County

Despite residents' criticism, county buys 572-acre tract

The state has completed its purchase of a $6.5 million tract in Worcester County that will be preserved as open space, despite criticism from local residents that the price was too high and the land was never in danger of being developed.

The 572-acre property, known as the Weidman Farm, is in a remote area and does not have county water or sewer capacity. About 70 percent of the land is undevelopable marsh, according to county records.

The state entered into a contract in March to purchase the property from Douglas J. Weidman, whose father had a hunting lodge there. The sale was completed Friday. The state plans to transfer title of the property to Worcester County, which will operate the site as an environmental education center.

Rona Kobell

Annapolis

Miller's chief of staff leaving to become a lobbyist

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller's chief of staff is leaving government to become a lobbyist, his new employer, Gordon, Feinblatt, announced yesterday.

Tim Perry, who has worked in Miller's office for eight years and as chief of staff for four, follows in the footsteps of other top aides to Senate presidents who have become some of the top lobbyists in Annapolis.

"Tim leaving is like losing my right arm," Miller said. "He's been a good friend and a solid adviser."

Miller said Perry will be replaced by Victoria Gruber, who is now the top legislative aide to the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.

Both Perry and Gruber are members of power couples in Maryland politics. Perry's wife, Ann K. Beegle, is chief of staff and campaign manager for Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr. Gruber's husband, Tom Lewis, is a former chief of staff to House speakers Casper R. Taylor Jr. and Michael E. Busch.

Andrew A. Green

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