Council panel sets hearing to probe City Foundation

November 21, 2009|By James Drew

A Baltimore City Council committee has scheduled a hearing Dec. 2 to investigate the operations of the Baltimore City Foundation.

Councilman James B. Kraft, chairman of the judiciary and legislative investigations committee, said he plans to ask members of the foundation's board of directors and the firm that has audited the foundation's books - King, King and Associates - to attend the hearing and answer questions. He also said city administrators whose departments have set up accounts with the foundation could be summoned.

Kraft called the hearing in response to an Oct. 25 Baltimore Sun investigation that found that city officials have used the foundation - a private nonprofit formed in 1981 to raise money, primarily to benefit city programs for the underprivileged - to pay for expenses such as an ice sculpture and ice skating rink for Mayor Sheila Dixon's inauguration, and to skirt competitive bidding for design of a visitors center at Cylburn Arboretum.

The newspaper also found that city officials have tapped foundation accounts with almost no oversight. In doing so, they have had broad discretion over how money is spent, and the foundation has asked few questions.

Kraft said the investigation will explore the foundation's operations, distribution of its funds, city employee involvement in fundraising on its behalf and the role of the foundation's board and executive director in its management and control. He said he anticipates holding more than one hearing.

"Our goal is to identify very specific problems and then recommend a very specific course of action to the foundation," said Kraft.

The hearing is set to start at 5 p.m. in council chambers.

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