Baltimore’s Ethically Challenged Mayors

Mayor Rawlings-BlakeBy Barry Rascovar / June 12, 2013

NO. NO. NO. NOT AGAIN! Another Baltimore mayor who doesn’t know right from wrong? Say it ain’t so.

First it was Mayor Sheila Dixon, who got romantically involved with a developer, Ron Lipscomb, who kept winning city contracts. He became the man to partner with for any developer wanting to lock in a big city project. That shameful liaison eventually led to Dixon’s resignation and plea bargain for misusing gift cards meant for the poor.

Now it is Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and her family living it up with the city’s top lobbyist and her family at the lobbyist’s Delaware beach house. The mayor paid Lisa Harris Jones $400 for the Memorial Day weekend jaunt, so in her eyes that makes it copacetic.

She’s missing the big picture. Here’s the most powerful official in Baltimore spending a weekend with the city’s most prolific lobbyist at the lobbyist’s seaside digs. This is just after the mayor attended the lobbyist’s Las Vegas wedding (to her equally well-connected lobbyist-partner on the state and city scene, Sean Malone). (For a profile of Harris Jones Malone, see Mark Reutter’s wonderful piece in Baltimore Brew, http://www.baltimorebrew.com/2013/06/12/lisa-harris-jones-a-portrait-of-the-mayors-lobbyist-friend/)

The cash register will be ringing and ringing for the Malones. What businessman or developer is going to use anyone else to get the inside track on city deals?

The appearance of impropriety is so sharp and stunning. How could Rawlings-Blake not see it? Especially after Dixon’s lack of concern with appearances — and the result.

So far, Rawlings-Blake has done a good job improving ethics at City Hall. But she doesn’t understand that being mayor sometimes means separating yourself from close, longtime friends while you are in office. Otherwise, people might get the wrong idea.

That’s certainly the case this time.