Adams Highlights Business Experience, Pushes Procurement Reforms in Comptroller Race

Bowie Mayor Timothy J. Adams, a Democratic candidate for comptroller, chats with the crowd at the J. Millard Tawes Clam Bake and Crab Feast in Crisfield. Photo by Danielle E. Gaines.

Democratic comptroller candidate and Bowie Mayor Timothy J. Adams is making procurement reform and closing Maryland’s racial wealth divide a central part of his campaign, and said making state contracts more competitive will help businesses owned by women and people of color.

Adams is the first Black mayor of Bowie and the founder and CEO of the multimillion-dollar defense contracting firm Systems Application & Technologies. He has worked as a contractor with the federal government for years, and said in an interview that he wants to overhaul the state’s procurement process to be more competitive.

Adams said he wants to use the comptroller’s seat on Maryland’s powerful Board of Public Works to phase out and eventually eliminate single-bid contracts, which occur when the state receives just one bid for a contract.

“Single-bid contracts are issued when the state tried to generate bid competition but failed to do so,” Adams said. “That’s a failure of the procurement process, and that really deprives taxpayers of the assurance that we’re getting the best services at the best price.”

Procurement reforms like reducing single-bid contracts go hand in hand with promoting businesses owned by women and people of color, Adams said, because making the bid process more competitive, alongside ensuring strict enforcement of Minority Business Enterprise rules, will give those businesses a better chance to land a state contract. He has slammed the state’s procurement system as favoring “incumbent vendors and those with political connections” since making his comptroller bid official earlier this year.

Adams also said he wants to review the state’s use of emergency contracts, which he charged allow agencies to “bypass the competitive process” and fast-track procurement. But he said he doesn’t want to entirely phase out sole-source contracts, which occur when there is only one source for the contract, often a very specialized business.

He argues that he is uniquely positioned to make the state’s procurement system more equitable, given his own private sector experience.

Adams’ primary opponent, Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore City) has also pledged to cut back single-bid contracts and boost transparency in the bidding. Lierman has been endorsed by a slew of her Democratic legislative colleagues, but Adams hopes to set himself apart by touting his business acumen.

“There’s a difference between appropriating funds and managing a budget,” Adams said. “There’s a difference between signing the front of the check, and just signing the back of one. There is no substitute for having led people in the past.”

Each comptroller candidate is underscoring their background in their respective campaigns: Adams is highlighting his contracting and business leadership experience; Lierman is touting her legislative track record on issues like climate change and public transit; and Harford County Executive Barry Glassman (R), the lone Republican in the comptroller race, has emphasized his decades of experience as an elected official at both the state and local level in his own campaign.

Adams also wants to review state’s inventory of tax credits and subtraction modifications to see whether they’ve been effective, and also study the state’s tax gap to determine where the state needs to focus its collection efforts.

“We’re looking for job creation, investments in certain industries, workforce development,” Adams said. “I’m going to recommend the phase-out of those that are not achieving the intended outcome.”

He said the next comptroller should work with the governor and General Assembly to come up with a strategy for making state employees’ wages more competitive with federal wages and also develop a “succession strategy” to ensure diversity in leadership roles at state agencies.

Adams also said he wants oversight over the state’s public school construction program to be returned to the Board of Public Works after the legislature stripped the spending panel of that power in 2018. He said the process was more transparent when it was handled by the Board of Public Works rather than the Interagency Commission on School Construction.

“The kids in the poor zip codes, they lack AC, they lack heat, they lack water fountains they can drink from,” he said. “That’s the basics.”

Adams also said the Board of Public Works needs to apply a climate lens to its spending decisions. He noted that a regular function of the Board of Public Works is to authorize tidal wetlands licenses, which are required before dredging, filling or altering state tidal wetlands.

The competitive Democratic race for comptroller comes after incumbent Peter V.R. Franchot (D) launched a gubernatorial bid, along with eight other Democrats.

Franchot has held the office since 2007. Both Democratic contenders would make history if elected: Adams would be the state’s first Black comptroller, and the first person with paraplegia to ever hold a statewide office in Maryland; Lierman would be the state’s first woman comptroller.

The primary election is set for June 28, 2022.

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