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Baltimore City Council to Consider Half a Dozen Government Reform Measures

As the city leadership in Baltimore continues to grapple with the fallout from allegations of insider-dealing by Mayor Catherine E. Pugh (D) while she was a member of a state board, city councilmembers are introducing a half-dozen government reform bills.

Three bills sponsored by Councilmember Ryan Dorsey (D) – two of which are cosponsored by the entire council with the exception of Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young (D), who is serving as acting mayor while Pugh remains on leave – were introduced this week. Another three will be introduced at the council’s next meeting on Monday.

The measures from Dorsey would give more protections to whistleblowers in city government, name the city’s independent inspector general as executive director of the Ethics Board, and expand the requirements for filing financial disclosures among higher-paid officials in city government, including new provisions with tougher penalties for those who fail to file.

Three more measures – all charter amendments that would require approval from voters at the ballot box in 2020 – are expected to be introduced Monday, with the aim of shifting power in the city’s strong-mayor system of governance.

Councilmember Kristerfer Burnett (D) is sponsoring a bill that would allow the city council to vote to remove the mayor from office; a united council sent a memorandum to Pugh earlier this month asking her to resign. There is no provision in current law that would allow Pugh to be removed from office, unless convicted of a crime.

Councilmember Bill Henry (D) will introduce two measures. One would make it easier for the city council to override mayoral vetoes. A similar measure passed in 2015 but was vetoed by then-Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake (D).

The councilmembers sponsoring the ethics legislation will hold a news conference before Monday’s council meeting to discuss the reform bills. Also expected to attend the news conference are Rev. Kobi Little, president of the Baltimore branch of the NAACP; Joanne Antoine, executive director of Common Cause Maryland; other council members; and state Sen. Jill P. Carter (D-Baltimore City), who introduced legislation this year that brought questionable dealings by Pugh and other members of the University of Maryland Medical System Board to light.

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