Release: Comptroller Henry's Statement on Travel Regulations
Thursday Jun 10th, 2021
204 City Hall - Baltimore Maryland 21202
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Baltimore, MD - Statement from Comptroller Bill Henry on the new City Employee Travel Regulations which passed the Board of Estimates on June 9th with a vote of 3-1.
"Yesterday, the Board of Estimates passed updates to City Employee Travel Regulations. I’ve been having discussions with the City Solicitor and the City Administrator since May 27, notably after the policy was first sent to the BOE.
I am concerned that a working group of unelected officials came up with a policy in which they decided they were going to treat elected officials as if they were all accountable to the Mayor, as opposed to being accountable to their constituents. As such, I recommended a number of changes to the Administration:
- An amendment to require that third-party funded travel be disclosed and noted rather than voted on and approved by the Board of Estimates for Elected Officials
- When non-elected City employees are traveling on City business, they are still accruing leave, and could accrue overtime or comp time depending on the hours of the event they are attending. That’s a cost to the taxpayers that elected officials don’t incur and explains why travel by non-elected employees should receive approval or disapproval.
- Many items are disclosed and noted by the Board (audits, for example), so as to draw the public’s attention to their importance, but do not require votes outside of the body’s purview
- An amendment to require elected officials and non-elected City employees to notify the Ethics Board in advance of any travel—for City business or otherwise—that is funded, in whole or in part, by a third party
- A provision requiring that if the Ethics Board determines that the Elected Officials’ travel is in violation of the Ethics Law, the Board of Estimates may vote to disapprove the travel
Baltimore City’s Public Ethics Law does not currently require all City officials, in advance of any travel that is funded by a third party, to notify the Ethics Board of the details of the travel arrangements; doing so would allow the Board can rule on whether the travel conflicts with existing prohibitions concerning controlled donors or use of the prestige of office. Because of this loophole in the process, I have encouraged both the Ethics Board and the Mayor to draft legislation that would update the City Code.
Elected officials have elections, where they must be able to explain every action they took in office so that constituents can determine for themselves whether they deserve their job or not. Our actions should and will be scrutinized by the people that elect us. It is not for anyone elected official to determine the actions of another.
The Board of Estimates is controlled by the Mayor. Other elected members can raise issues, ask questions, and influence discussions of decisions, but their opinion will never prevail unless the Mayor is on board. Yesterday’s approval of travel regulations is continuing the practice of the past of letting the Mayor reign over the decisions of other elected officials. I appreciate the thoughtfulness put into this policy, but I feel it would be irresponsible of me to not point out that a future Mayor could use this policy to overreach on what should be accountability between elected officials and constituents, not elected officials and the Mayor."