Sort files, check the kids, late lunch


December 13, 2006|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Any taxpayers out there who've been fretting about footing the first family's child care bills can relax. They should worry instead about state workers juggling multiple duties and delaying lunch until almost dinnertime.

Readers might recall that two days' worth of Kendel Ehrlich's private schedule came my way earlier this fall, and it indicated that state workers watched the Ehrlichs' two young sons for several hours both days. Kendel Ehrlich's spokesman, Derek Fink, confirmed at the time that state staffers babysat but only on "very rare occasions" and only on their own time.

Just how rare those occasions are, we don't know, because I only have the schedule for those two measly days, May 2, 2005, and May 3, 2005. The first lady doesn't receive a state salary and therefore isn't officially a public employee, so her private schedule is not subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

Her babysitters' time sheets are subject to FOIA, however, if they happen to have day jobs with the state. So I asked to see a time sheet for Liz Strand, the first lady's scheduler. Strand was down for babysitting from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on May 3. (Government House staffers watched the kids from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. the day before, but I didn't try FOIA-ing those records, since the workers were not identified by name or occupation.)

Bob Ehrlich's chief counsel, Jervis Finney, promptly turned over Strand's time sheet, and provided his own written explanation for how the scheduler spent her time that day. For the 90 minutes in question - Finney said it was really just an hour, from 4 to 5 - he described a model of multitasking.

"Ms. Strand worked at her desk in the Statehouse from 9 a.m. until 4, went to Government House where she had lunch and sorted documents" - and, one hopes, also kept an eye on the youngsters, though Finney makes no note of that - "from 4 until 5, and then returned to her office in the State House until after six, although the report reflects the usual day's end at 6."

One question: Who eats lunch at 4 p.m.?

But he's a big hit in Turkey

Though unsuccessful, Oz Bengur's run for Congress has made him something of a celebrity in his father's native Turkey. The businessman will travel tomorrow to Istanbul, where he was invited to address a group of business leaders.

"I was the first person of Turkish descent to run for Congress," Bengur said. "There was a fair amount of coverage that I got over there in the press."

The group wants him to talk about "what change in Congress might mean for Turkey and Middle East policies." Bengur said the group will provide him with "a small honorarium," one that won't quite cover the cost of his weeklong trip.

Please don't be stingy with the lawyers

Looking for more funding from the city, the folks at Baltimore's Legal Aid Bureau invited Councilman Keiffer Mitchell in for a little chat.

The group, which provides free civil legal services to the poor, gets more funding in other jurisdictions, they told him. Anne Arundel County gives $65,000; Baltimore County, $35,000; Harford County, $47,000; and Howard County, $68,000. But Baltimore City, where the need is greatest? Just $15,000.

"I said, `Per case? That's pretty good for the city,'" Mitchell recalled. "They said, `No, that's for the year.' I said, `Oh my goodness.'"

Mitchell called for an informational hearing, so Legal Aid can make its pitch to other council members. It's tomorrow at 2 p.m. at City Hall.

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