Anti-Sprawl Hire Draws Criticism

Audrey Scott - MD ModerateAudrey Scott’s vocal endorsement this year of her son’s Lawrence Scott’s political consulting clients, David Brinkley and Richard Douglas, is not the first time she has engaged in the “Prince George’s County Way” of pay to play in order to advance her family’s business interests.  In 2006, Audrey got caught by the press when hired her son’s former political consulting client to a $65,000 a year job he had no background.

The Scotts’ were embarrassed enough to try to cover up the connection, by routing a $4,000 payment through “Scott Strategies Inc.” owned by Francine Scott, Lawrence Scott’s wife and Audrey Scott’s daughter in law. The ruse was intended to allow Lawrence to attempt to publicly deny the connection to Doug Burkhardt.

Inquiring minds want to know, if James Shalleck had only agreed in 2010 to hire Lawrence Scott (excuse me, “Scott Strategies Inc.” owned by Francine Scott), can there be any doubt that Shalleck would have been the Republican candidate for Attorney General?

Anti-sprawl hire draws criticism

Smart Growth chief lacks experience, advocates say


The appointment of an Annapolis businessman to coordinate Maryland’s pioneering Smart Growth efforts is drawing criticism from managed-growth advocates who contend he has insufficient planning experience and that his hiring indicates the Ehrlich administration is not committed to fighting sprawl.

Douglas Burkhardt, who ran unsuccessfully as a Republican last year for the Annapolis city council, began work Monday as the new head of the Office of Smart Growth in Maryland’s Department of Planning.

Planning Secretary Audrey E. Scott said in an interview that she hired Burkhardt because he has “the right combination of skills and experience” for the Smart Growth post, which has been vacant for more than three months.

During his campaign, Burkhardt said he was president and owner of the Monticello Group, an Annapolis consulting firm he runs with his wife that specializes in information technology and mortgages. On the firm’s Web site, Burkhardt says he has more than 20 years of sales and management experience in the technology and computer software industry.

Burkhardt, reached by telephone Friday afternoon, said he was going into a meeting and had no time to talk. He did not return that call or subsequent ones.

Scott said her decision to hire him was not influenced by his association with her son, Lawrence Scott, who helped Burkhardt with his campaign for Ward 1 alderman.

“He was sent to me by the [governor’s] appointments office, and I thought he fit the bill,” Audrey Scott said of Burkhardt. She described him as “very personable, very articulate” and said his background in mortgage financing brings a much-needed business perspective to the state planning agency.

Managed-growth advocates, however, questioned Burkhardt’s qualifications to lead the state’s Smart Growth efforts, which attempt to encourage development in and around existing communities. Smart Growth gained national prominence when launched in the late 1990s under Gov. Parris N. Glendening, and similar anti-sprawl efforts have caught on in other states.

“Clearly this administration is not taking Smart Growth seriously,” said Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of 1000 Friends of Maryland, which advocates more compact development around the state. “How can they have, as the head of the Office of Smart Growth, somebody who has no experience in the issue?”

She called Burkhardt’s hiring “another sign that this administration is not doing anything to stop poorly planned development.”

“This does not seem to bode well for the state’s Smart Growth program,” said Dan Pontious, regional policy director of the Citizens Planning and Housing Association. “If this is the state’s top person on the Smart Growth issue, you would hope they have some experience in growth planning,”

The Office of Smart Growth, which once reported directly to the governor, was folded into the planning department after Ehrlich took office, and virtually all of its staff have since quit or been fired. The deputy director’s job that Burkhardt is assuming has been vacant since October, when Sam Bradner left to go to work for Struever Bros. Eccles and Rouse in Providence, R.I.

Burkhardt earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Frostburg State University in 1980, according to a school spokesman, and he took graduate business classes at the University of Maryland, according to a brief campaign biography published last fall by The Sun.

Scott said that although he lacks a degree in planning, he took courses in it.

“I think he understands the mortgage market and real estate, which is a real plus for Smart Growth,” said the planning secretary. “It’s something we didn’t have in-house.” His salary is about $65,000, she said.

Lawrence Scott advised Burkhardt and several other candidates in last year’s municipal elections in Annapolis, according to published reports and two council candidates.

The Capital in Annapolis reported in October that Scott, an Annapolis lawyer, was helping several candidates, including Burkhardt, though Scott told the paper he wasn’t a paid consultant. Burkhardt’s campaign finance reports show he paid $4,000 to Scott Strategies Inc., a firm owned by Francine Scott, Lawrence Scott’s wife. Campaign reports indicate the firm provided “promotional items” and “printed materials.”

Richard D. Israel, who defeated Burkhardt in the race for Ward 1 alderman, said that Burkhardt introduced Scott to him at a council meeting. Debbie Rosen McKerrow, who ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat to represent Ward 2, said that Scott was introduced on another occasion as campaign adviser to Burkhardt and other candidates.

Audrey Scott said neither her son nor his wife, Francine, ever communicated with her about hiring Burkhardt.

“Neither one of them ever recommended him to me,” the planning secretary said. “They could have, but they never did. When I told them he was coming to work for me, they told me they didn’t know he was looking for a job, that he was job hunting.”

The Ehrlich administration has been criticized by managed-growth advocates, who accuse it of doing little to enforce the Smart Growth laws and policies, which discourage low-density development and focus state spending for schools, roads and other infrastructure on existing communities.

While supporting the policy in concept, Ehrlich has promoted his own Priority Places program, which has offered technical and regulatory help, but no funding, to a handful of redevelopment projects.

Scott said Burkhardt would be in charge of carrying out the Ehrlich administration’s Priority Places program.

“I wouldn’t have hired him if I didn’t think he could do the job and do it well,” she said.


About mdgopinsider

University of Maryland Government and Politics Major View all posts by mdgopinsider

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