'It's a case of fairness'

City chief says policy bars officials from a part in auctions

August 28, 2008|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,annie.linskey@baltsun.com

Baltimore Director of Transportation Alfred H. Foxx said his department adopted a policy barring officials from participating in city auctions because their positions give them access to information not available to the public.

One of Foxx's top aides, deputy director of transportation in charge of operations, Anthony P. Wallnofer Jr., is being investigated by the city's inspector general because he is in possession of 15-foot Eagle motorboat that was auctioned by the city. That boat was purchased at a July 30 auction for $1,900 by Frankford Towing Company, a city firm that has been lobbying the Transportation Department to increase towing fees by $25.

"It is a case of fairness," Foxx said. "The general public comes in, and they have time to inspect vehicles, but they don't have the knowledge of those working on the impound lot on a daily basis."

However, Foxx stressed yesterday that rules preventing department employees from buying items sold via a city auction only apply when the employee "knowingly" purchases an auctioned vehicle from a dealer.

City ethics rules prevent city officials from receiving gifts from companies with business before their agency.

The department policy, which was issued to transportation employees in October by Wallnofer, says that those "in the chain of command" of the city yard cannot "knowingly purchase from any dealer a vehicle that the dealer had purchased at a vehicle auction."

In a phone interview yesterday, Foxx said: "We struggled to come up with a policy that would be reasonable. The key phrase [in that policy] would be 'knowingly.' " Foxx declined to expand on that comment or say anything directly related to the city hall probe.

Wallnofer has worked for the city since 1975 and made $90,000 a year in 2007, according to city records. He could not be reached for comment yesterday. On Monday the boat was sitting on a trailer in the backyard of Wallnofer's Harford County home. In a brief phone conversation Monday, Wallnofer's wife referred to the boat as her husband's.

Dick Bonnet, the head of Frankford Towing, also could not be reached for comment.

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