Yesterday's testimony by Baltimore County Revenue Authority Chief Executive William "Lynnie" Cook before the House Environmental Matters Committee has raised the eyebrows of some legislators from Baltimore County and a member of the authority's board of directors.
Cook testified Tuesday (the video is available on the General Assembly website starting at the 2:26:29 mark) saying several things that were surprising to those following the bills affecting the authority including:
- Cook said that he had just three weeks notice of the bills including one requiring the authority to seek the approval of the Baltimore County Council before selling parcels of land.
- That he received only 24 hours notice prior to the vote taken last week in the county's House delegation.
- That he had been authorized by the board of directors for the authority to delay the controversial sale of the Lavender Avenue lot in Parkville if the land sale bill were also delayed.
- That the board was set to approve the adoption of the county's ethics laws at its next meeting.
The statements caught at least one authority board member, the chairman of the county's House delegation and Del. John Cluster, sponsor of the three authority bills, by surprise.
All said they were taken aback when they heard Cook speak about receiving little or no notice on the bills and votes.
Cluster spoke about the bills often dating back to late last year. In fact, Patch reported on all three bills in November. Cluster filed the bill requiring council authorization to sell land on January 11.
Del. John Olszewski Jr., chairman of the county's House delegation, said he spoke to Cook about the bills at the beginning of January when the authority was invited to come and speak to delegates and senators from the county (a meeting that took place on January 20).
Olszewski said Wednesday that he and his staff had multiple conversations with Cook about the bills and the process.
"It wasn't reflective of the process at all or how the delegation handles things," said Olszewski, speaking of Cook's testimony about late notice. He added that "the bills had been filed for some time and are all available on the General Assembly website."
Leslie Pittler, a long-time member of the authority board, said he was surprised to hear Cook testify to having authorization to delay the sale of the parking lot in Parkville and that the board was poised to adopt county ethics laws.
"I have not received any information regarding those statements whatsoever," said Pittler, who added that he was aware of Cook's statements after watching them on the General Assembly's website.
Pittler said that he was not involved in any phone calls or email discussions related to the Lavender lot or the proposed ethics and procurement bills in the House of Delegates and was not aware that any such discussions had taken place.
The board would have been required to give public notice under the Maryland Open Meetings Act if three or more members participated in a conference call or met in person to discuss authority business.
"I would hope that, regarding an issue of this nature, there would be no statements made before the entire board was informed of what was taking place," said Pittler.
Pittler proposed in December that the board adopt county ethics laws before the legislature had an opportunity to pass Cluster's bill requiring the adoption of the laws. That board decided against adoption at the time saying that they had not had a chance to read the county law.
"How would (Cook) know what the board was going to do unless all the members were called?" said Pittler.