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Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) and Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) served their final meeting Wednesday on the Board of Public Works, an affair that included several congratulatory speeches as well as serious business.
State Treasurer Dereck E. Davis (D), who joined the board in December 2021, thanked both men for making the transition from his more than two decades in the House of Delegates “so much more fulfilling.”
Davis praised his fellow Democratic colleague in Franchot and his work in public service for more than three decades. But Davis also commended Hogan, a Republican, particularly for his work when the coronavirus pandemic first hit the state back in 2020.
“A lot of people made it [out to be] more political than what it should have been,” Davis said. “You went to work on trying to keep the people of Maryland as safe as best as you could. There were other things, but that’s the thing that sticks out to me…”
Franchot, the state’s comptroller for 16 years until Comptroller-Elect Brooke Lierman (D) gets sworn in on Jan. 16, thanked board staff, his own staff and residents.
“Thank you for the incredible opportunity to serve this state over the past 36 years,” he said. “It’s been an honor…and I’m proud of the work we have accomplished together. I can look back on my career and say, ‘Job well done.’”
Hogan, who chaired his last meeting before his term expires Jan. 18 when Gov.-elect Wes Moore (D) gets sworn in, smiled even more when the three-member board unanimously approved a new lease to keep the Baltimore Ravens in the city’s downtown for at least another 15 years. The lease provides for two, five-year extensions.
Part of the agreement with the Maryland Stadium Authority includes the team remaining in the city until the 2037 National Football League season.
The Ravens will pay no rent but must pay operations and maintenance costs.
Hogan called the vote “an exciting day” for both the city and state of Maryland.
Negotiations were ongoing between Ravens and authority officials because the lease was set to expire in 2027 for the team that plays at M&T Bank Stadium, which opened in September 1998.
Thomas Kelso, chairman of the stadium authority, said one goal will be for non-football activities to also take place at the stadium.
He said any major construction projects required at the stadium for football or other uses would come before the Board of Public Works for approval.
Davis warned that the price to renovate the stadium could increase as it grows older, which is particularly concerning since the stadium is managed by the state.
“What are the opportunity costs?” Davis wondered, of continuing to extend the current contract.
‘Deeper than a few dollars’
The last meeting did take on a serious topic.
Davis requested a separate vote on a $75,000 settlement between the state police and a man attacked by a police dog.
According to a summary of the case, Ikiem Smith was pulled over in 2017 by state troopers in Cecil County, who were seeking to enforce an arrest warrant.
After Smith was pulled over, police said he left the scene and a chase ensued.
Two more police officers assisted in the chase and Smith stopped after three miles, according to court documents. After he was taken from the vehicle and handcuffed, one of the officers ordered the dog to “attack and bite Smith’s right foot, which was bare,” according to court documents.
“As a result of the attack from the K-9, Smith suffered torn tendons, ripped flesh, puncture wounds, nerve damage, swelling and permanent impairment of the function of two toes,” according to the court document.
A U.S. District Court judge agreed with Smith in a federal civil rights case that the officers didn’t have probable cause to pull him over.
On Wednesday, Davis said he asked his staff to research more about the case and said he was troubled by racial dynamics and the fact that the officers involved weren’t disciplined. Smith is Black and four of the five police officers are white. Davis said no body cameras were turned on.
Davis voted against the settlement. Hogan and Franchot voted in support of it.
After the meeting during a brief interview, Davis said the scene reminded him of Bull Donnor. Donnor served as commissioner of public safety in Birmingham, Alabama, who allowed members of the Ku Klux Klan to attack a bus of Freedom Riders in the 1960s during non-violent protests against the segregation of bus terminals.
He stressed he wasn’t disparaging the Maryland State Police by his vote, “but in this case, I couldn’t simply say let’s just write a check and make all of this go away, even though that was in the best financial interest of Maryland,” he said. “But it’s got to be deeper than just a few dollars because I can help protect the citizens of the state.”
He continued: “Hopefully the next time [police officers] are in a position where they can use a dog on somebody, they’ll [say], ‘That SOB up in the treasurer’s office. He’s going to say something in a public setting and maybe embarrass me or bring a light that I don’t want shone on me.’ So if I’m even able to accomplish that, then I would have done my job.”