George A. Piendak, the former Baltimore City budget director who was the longtime board chairman of a culinary arts school, died in his sleep Monday at his Charles Village home. He was 65.
Born in New Britain, Conn., he was a political science graduate of Williams College. He earned a master's degree in comparative politics and administration at the University of Sussex in England and took doctoral courses at the University of Pittsburgh.
He joined city government in 1970 as a fiscal policy analyst. In 1977, he was named chief of the city's Bureau of Budget and Management Research. News articles said that he supervised the preparation of six city budgets during a time when inflation climbed and federal support fell.
Mr. Piendak was treasurer of the second and third downtown City Fairs, held in 1971 and 1972. The events drew thousands of visitors to parts of Baltimore that were being rebuilt.
"It was George's and my job to go around to the admission booths and collect the money," said Robert S. Hillman, an attorney who had been the city's labor commissioner. "It was hot, maybe 90 degrees, and he wore a long raincoat with bags of money under it. We were walking over Fayette Street when we realized someone was following us. We got to our office and closed the door. George had called the police. Our follower appeared and was met by an officer with a sawed-off shotgun. He said, 'I must have the wrong room.' "
While working the City Fair, Mr. Piendak met his future wife, the former Zoe Daidakis, who became chief of staff during the administration of Mayor Clarence H. Du Burns.
Mr. Piendak appeared at numerous financial hearings and argued in a state school finance case that Maryland was unequally distributing educational money. He was also grilled by City Hall when authorities wanted to reduce trash collections to once a week.
He helped write the legislation creating the Baltimore Convention Center and its expansion.
"He was great with numbers and had the ability to make them understandable to people," Mr. Hillman said. "George was extremely competent and was a creative financial person for the city and state."
Friends recalled Mr. Piedak's habit of chain-smoking cigars in his office. A 1982 Evening Sun sketch called him a "gracious man with a wry sense of humor."
The article said he had done a "remarkable job" answering to his bosses, then-Mayor William Donald Schaefer and finance director Charles Benton.
"We always suspected Mr. Piendak had secret crannies in the budget where money was stashed away," an Evening Sun editorial said. "But we forgave him because he was a straight shooter with the media, willing to help reporters reduce billion-dollar budgets to one-line headlines or 30-second news briefs. Piendak will be missed, even by those who will be happy he's taking his cigars with him."
Mr. Piendak resigned the post in 1982 and worked in the municipal bond department of Butcher & Singer in Philadelphia and the old Alex. Brown & Sons in Baltimore.
Mr. Piendak served a total of 28 years as board chairman of Baltimore International College, formerly the Baltimore International Culinary Arts Institute.
"George had a reputation of solving problems that other people could not handle," said the school's president, Roger Chylinski. "He was a deal-maker and able to think outside the box. George was my mentor. We spoke three to six times during the week."
Mr. Piendak worked on the financial strategy behind the school's acquisition of its 100-acre Irish campus, Virginia Park in County Cavan. He visited the resort on numerous occasions, often with city officials.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. today at the Ruck Towson Funeral Home, 1050 York Road.
Survivors include his daughter, Emily A. Vainieri of Baltimore; two brothers, Dennis Piendak of Dracut, Mass., and David Piendak of Arlington, Texas; and a granddaughter. His wife of 27 years died in 2003.