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News notes: Fence up around State House, council concerns in Harford, hate crime commission appointees, a Senate race super PAC

Fencing goes up around the State House as a $20.2 million renovation project enters a new phase. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

The area around State Circle is a beehive of construction and renovation activity.

The oldest state capitol building in the nation in continuous use is showing its age. New fencing around the building marks a new phase of a $20.2 million restoration project. Nick Cavey, a spokesperson for the Department of General Services, said phase two of the renovation is expected to continue through the end of 2024.

The continuing renovation of the State House includes window and roof repair or replacement as well as repairs to the brick facade of the building and a brick retaining wall along State Circle. Improvements to landscaping, grading, ramps, walkways, lighting, and railings on the grounds are also planned. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

“DGS is currently working with the contractor to set up scaffolding around the State House for renovations to the exterior of the building,” said Cavey. “Public access will be maintained throughout the entirety of the project although the access point may change to accommodate the flow of work for the project.”

Restoration of the exterior of the State House includes window and roof repair or replacement as well as repairs to the brick facade of the building and a brick retaining wall along State Circle. Improvements to landscaping, grading, ramps, walkways, lighting, and railings on the grounds are also planned

The first phase of restoration work included repainting the iconic State House dome. That work was completed before Gov. Wes Moore (D) was sworn in in January.

The Old Treasury Building on State Circle will also get a long-needed facelift.

A room of the old Treasury Building that served as the treasurer’s offices now serves as a storage area for stones that were part of a foundation and windows removed from the State House Dome. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

Work on the building includes adding lighting, upgraded electrical outlets, security improvements, and fiber optic upgrades to support exhibits. A window in what was the office used by the treasurer will be converted into an accessible entrance.

Built in 1735, the structure is the oldest state government building in Annapolis. It has been closed to the public for 50 years.

The building, which once housed the treasury’s iron chests, is currently used as an office for ongoing work around the complex and a storage shed.

The building exterior will be restored to its 18th century period of significance. If funds allow, further renovations will support use for self-guided exhibits interpreting Maryland’s earliest history.

Across the street from the State House, work continues on a new building for the Department of Legislative Services.

The $120 million project will replace an aging and ailing building that housed 300 people — analysts and other employees that service the General Assembly.

Work continues on the new Department of Legislative Services building. The $120 million project is expected to open in late 2024. Photo by Bryan P. Sears.

The now demolished legislative services building dated to the 1970s. It was built on the site of the former Court of Appeals.

The building did not comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990. It also had lead paint and asbestos and its elevators were so outdated that finding parts before the pandemic was difficult, if not impossible.

A year ago, the building was stripped to its steel skeleton.

As Moore was sworn in, it was little more than a crater.

A new environmentally sensitive five story building — two stories will be below ground — is expected to open at the end of 2024.

Once complete, that will allow for restoration of the monument on Lawyers’ Mall to Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

Email monitoring investigation shifts to state prosecutor

Allegations of email monitoring by Harford County Executive Robert Cassilly (R) are now in the hands of the Office of the State Prosecutor, according to the president of the Harford County Council, Patrick Vincenti.

Harford County Executive Robert Cassilly (R) chats with reporters Dec. 5 after swearing-in ceremony at Harford Community College. Photo by William J. Ford.

In an emailed statement, Vincenti (R), said Harford County State’s Attorney Alison Healy informed him of the change Tuesday. Initially, Healy was handling the review along with detectives assigned to her office by the Harford County Sheriff’s department.

Vincenti pledged his full cooperation in the investigation.

“I am deeply troubled by these allegations,” Vincenti said. “It is imperative that we protect the integrity of the citizens we serve. As elected representatives of Harford County, Councilmembers handle numerous sensitive issues that affect the livelihood and well-being of every Harford County citizen, daily. We take these matters very seriously and welcome a thorough investigation into these allegations.”

The state prosecutor’s office does not comment on nor confirm the existence of its investigations.

Allegations of email and phone monitoring were leveled against Cassilly by freshman councilmember Aaron Penman (R).

Penman alleges that Cassilly and his staff authorized a search of his email following the council member’s complaints in May about the county executive wrongfully transferring $7 million without council approval. The search included exchanges between the council member and Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler; Erik Robey, director of legislative affairs for the sheriff’s department; Melissa Lambert, director of legal affairs for the sheriff’s office; former county executive Barry Glassman and Joseph Snee, a Harford County land use attorney, among others.

Cassilly, in a statement Monday, said the search involving another branch of government was not problematic because the emails are on the county’s email server. The council does not have a separate email server.

In the statement, Cassilly said “the County has the right at any time to inspect all electronically stored information on such technology devices.”

Vincenti said the incident has forced him to examine the need to separate from the county’s system.

“In light of these unfortunate events, I am actively reviewing the need for the County Council and other local agencies to acquire separate computer servers and phone plans with my council colleagues and council attorney,” Vincenti said.

Members picked for commission on hate crimes

Maryland Attorney General Anthony Brown (D) announced appointments of members to a newly formed commission to assess state policies and develop strategies to combat hate crimes.

The 23 members are part of the Commission on Hate Crime Response and Prevention, which previously began as a statewide taskforce began in 2021 under former Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) thanks to a three-year, $833,000 federal grant.

Because that grant expires next year, Gov. Wes Moore (D) signed House Bill 1066 into law in May to ensure the commission remains a permanent group within the attorney general’s office.

The U.S. Department of Justice will cover a one-year contract next fiscal year for about $114,400 to hire an assistant attorney general to manage the commission. By fiscal year 2025, the state will fund the position and increase the salary to $136,000.

The commission will submit annual reports with policy recommendations to the General Assembly and state Department of Education with the first one due by Dec. 1, 2024.

Some of those individuals comprised of representatives from state and county agencies, nonprofit organizations and civil rights groups served on the task force.

Here are the representatives who will serve on the commission, which plans to hold two forums later this year.

  • Brown will serve as the commission’s chair
  • Meredith Weisel, regional director for the Anti-Defamation League’s D.C. region
  • Lanlan Xu, chair of the Asian American and Pacific Islander Commission of Howard County
  • Sarah Mersky Miicke, deputy director of the Baltimore Jewish Council
  • Ra’mona Brown-Carter, co-chair of the Coalition Opposed to Violence and Extremism
  • Zainab Chaudry, director of the Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Relations
  • Sam Williamson, attorney with Disability Rights Maryland
  • Phillip Westry, executive director with FreeState Justice
  • Pat Jones, executive director with the Immigration Outreach Service Center
  • Deborah Miller, director of Maryland government and community relations with Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington
  • Yolanda Sonnier, administrator for Howard County Office of Human Rights and Equity
  • Kate Bryen, executive director for Maryland Center for School Safety
  • Darryl McSwain, chief of Maryland-National Capital Park Police
  • Cleveland L. Horton II, deputy director with the Maryland Commission on Civil Rights
  • Dave Engel, director of Maryland Coordination and Analysis Center
  • Everett Sesker, Anne Arundel County sheriff
  • Steven Kroll, coordinator for the Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association
  • William Flowers, president of NAACP Maryland State Conference
  • Kate Farinholt, executive director of the National Alliance of Mental Illness of Maryland
  • Cleo Manago, chief executive officer with Pride Center of Maryland
  • Joraver Singh, of the Sikh Coalition
  • Larry M. Bell Jr., major with Towson University public safety
  • Laure Ruth, legal director with the Women’s Law Center

“I am honored and humbled by the energy, expertise, and passion of these appointees who are stepping up for all Marylanders, creating structure for our governing authorities to stem the tide of underreported crimes and bias incidents, and providing relief to people affected by these divisive acts,” Brown said in a statement. “Marylanders deserve a safe and inclusive State, and we’re here to listen, to report, and, most importantly, to act. This Commission will give a voice to those who may have been too afraid to speak up.”

Jawando fans launch super PAC

Supporters of Montgomery County Councilmember Will Jawando’s bid for the U.S. Senate have launched a super PAC to assist his bid.

It’s being led by Bill Burton, a well-known Democratic communications strategist who, like Jawando, held positions in the Obama White House.

Under federal campaign finance law, the new PAC, the Maryland Democratic Action Network, cannot coordinate with Jawando’s campaign. But it can help amplify the candidate’s message and attack his opponents; Jawando trailed his principal rivals for the Democratic Senate nomination — U.S. Rep. David Trone (6th) and Prince George’s County Executive Angela Alsobrooks — in both fundraising and spending in the first months of the campaign.“Together, we will mobilize the people of Maryland to elect Will Jawando, a fighter who embodies the values we hold dear: compassion, justice, and a determination to deliver for the communities he serves,” Burton, who was a deputy White House press secretary and was Obama’s national press secretary during the 2008 campaign, said in a statement. “With his vision and leadership, Maryland can be at the forefront of change.”Burton’s media consulting firm, Bryson Gillette, will be running the PAC’s TV and digital advertising. Rebecca Pearcey, a member of the firm who worked on the presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass), will be part of the effort.

Emily Parcell, another Obama campaign veteran, will oversee the PAC’s direct mail, through her firm, Agency. Jef Pollock and Rosa Mendoza, of the prominent public opinion and communications firm, Global Strategies Group, will run polling. The firm has worked on numerous campaigns in the state.


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News notes: Fence up around State House, council concerns in Harford, hate crime commission appointees, a Senate race super PAC