For the second time in as many months, Baltimore City Council members will fly south to interview people who worked with the mayor’s police commissioner nominee (also her second in two months). But this time around, the city is sending half as many members to cut costs by more than half.
Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s office said late Wednesday that the respective chair and vice chair of the Executive Appointments Committee, Councilmen Robert Stokes and Kristerfer Burnett, will visit New Orleans on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 “to interview a cross-section of people” who’ve worked with outgoing New Orleans Police Chief Michael Harrison. As was the case with Fort Worth Police Chief Joel Fitzgerald, that’ll include clergy, advocates, civil rights attorneys, business leaders, law enforcement and elected officials, among others.
Mayor Catherine Pugh announced last week she plans to nominate Harrison, who’s led the New Orleans Police Department since 2014, to be Baltimore’s next top cop. Fitzgerald, chief of the Fort Worth Police Department, withdrew earlier this month following a medical emergency involving his 13-year-old son, and after Baltimoreans spoke out almost universally against his nomination at a public hearing.
Burnett and Stokes will be joined by two staffers: Lester Davis, Young’s deputy chief of staff, and Michael Huber, the council president’s director of legislative affairs. Both joined the larger, four-member council delegation on their previous trip to Fort Worth from Dec. 9-11. For that visit, Young, Stokes, Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton and Public Safety Committee Chair Brandon Scott also flew down.
The Fort Worth trip cost roughly $5,623, according to a table Davis provided to Baltimore Fishbowl.
Young said in a statement they’ve reduced the size of the delegation for this go-round to lessen the burden on taxpayers. A table provided in the email estimates the cost for all four attendees at $2,165, including about $1,200 for airfare alone.
“We are always looking for cost-effective ways to accomplish our charter-mandated duty to offer informed advice and consent,” Young said in a statement. “By reducing the size of the traveling delegation, we’re able to save the taxpayer money without jeopardizing the integrity of the Council’s investigation.”
As they did with Fitzgerald, the delegation will put together a report with their notes and interview transcripts to release their council colleagues, as well as the public. The one on Fitzgerald totaled more than 200 pages of transcripts and notes from 15 hours of interviews.
Harrison plans to visit Baltimore next week to hold community meetings in all nine police districts. Unlike Fitzgerald, he’s resigning his post with NOPD ahead of the confirmation process. His last day is tomorrow, when his replacement will be sworn in in New Orleans.
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