With the secretive nature of how incumbent Mayor Catherine Pugh chose the man tasked with leading Baltimore City’s beleaguered police force forward with the attachment of a consent decree and the fourth straight year of 300+ homicides weighing them down; community leaders are becoming more and more frustrated with how this administration plans to keep them safe in the years to come.
And rightfully so!
However, they became even more angered by the recent announcement that the once highly anticipated face to face hearing citizens were to have with the Pugh administration’s choice to become Baltimore’s next top cop, Joel Fitzgerald; is now nothing more than a chance for angered and concerned citizens to voice their approval or disapproval of Fitzgerald to their city council members – something they could do via phone or email.
On Facebook, union political director and co-host of the popular DMVDaily Radio Show, Mark McLaurin, showed his bubbling frustration after finding out that the all-day hearing – set forth by a City Council touting its own transparency in the appointment process after the secrecy of the Mayor’s selection process – now doesn’t appear to so transparent after all, says McLaurin.
Posting as Jason McLaurin – his Facebook alias – to the Baltimore City Voters FB page, McLaurin “confirmed” that the recently selected Commissioner designee would in fact NOT be attending the Public Forum set forth by the Baltimore City Council for next Saturday afternoon at City Hall.
“The very last thing we need is people coming to the hearing designated for the public and being disappointed that there’s no opportunity to address or hear from the nominee,” himself. Responding to his comment was local activist Jan Houbolt, who said that in her opinion, “this has been the most pathetic hiring process imaginable in the face of these grave circumstances and past botched history.”
Houbolt was almost certainly referencing the prior selection for police commissioner by this administration, in which the Pugh administration and City Council members confirmed homegrown talent with the selection of Darryl DeSousa after firing Commissioner Kevin Davis, only to find out three and a half months later that he was facing charges of not paying taxes. This led to the current vacancy and a national search for his replacement, overlooking the acting police commissioner Gary Tuggle, who later decided he didn’t want the position.
Longtime community leader Ralph Moore turned to Facebook to vent his frustrations regarding the community’s opportunity to actually meet and greet, and/or question the recent commissioner appointee; stating that residents in deep East and West Baltimore – who are the most violent areas of the city, would appreciate an opportunity to question the candidate – who has been shrouded in a cloud of cloak and dagger type secrecy.
However, City Council President Bernard ‘Jack’ Young released a statement that addressed the concerns of McLaurin and others, saying that Mr. Fitzgerald was never supposed to be at the Saturday council hearing, but would be at two citywide “Meet and Greets” with Mayor Pugh that same weekend. Young, who led a coalition of council members down to Texas – where Fitzgerald currently resides and works as the Fort Worth Police Commissioner – in an unprecedented move to ensure the public that the council would make every effort to ensure transparency in their confirmation process, and find out as much information as possible about the man chosen to lead this increasingly violent city forward.
“As members of the City Council, we take seriously our roles in the confirmation process…and want to make sure that our actions are informed by the citizens we are elected to represent,” said Young in an issue press release. “That’s why I have taken several unprecedented steps, such as leading a four-member delegation of councilmembers down to Fort Worth, Texas to conduct a background investigation into Dr. Fitzgerald, and adding a full-day of public testimony on a Saturday, in order to generate robust public participation.”
The release also states that the purpose of the all-day January 5th hearing is for citizens to speak directly with the members of the City Council’s Executive Appointments Committee, offering their concerns; while the Council will have their crack at Dr. Fitzgerald on Monday, January 7th – at a public hearing scheduled for the council to address their own questions and concerns to the recently selected police commissioner, many of which may come from the concerns of the community presented at the Saturday hearing.
The Monday hearing will be open to the public, who will be able to submit written testimony to the Executive Appointments committee; however, no public testimony will be permitted, only questions and concerns from their elected representatives on the council. Mayor Pugh has scheduled two citywide ‘Meet and Greets’ with Dr. Fitzgerald, one being held in Northeast Baltimore, and the other being held in Northwest Baltimore. It’s also rumored that while both are open to the general public, that the Mayor has also set-up some unofficial ‘invitation only’ meetings with Dr. Fitzgerald and certain key stakeholders and community associations across the city.
The first citywide ‘Meet and Greet’ will be held in the morning of Sunday, January 6th from 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. at the Jewish Community Center in NW Baltimore (located at 5700 Park Heights Avenue); with the second one following that event later in the day, in NE Baltimore at Morgan State’s Business Center, happening from 2:00 – 3:30 p.m. at 4200 Hillen Road. (ID is required at the JCC and suggested to brought to MSU as well. It’s also required for the Saturday hearing at City Hall, taking place from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. at 100 Holliday Street)
The Council President’s Office also told us that the findings of the Council’s delegation background visit to Fort Worth will be made public in advance of these meetings, scheduled to be released on the 1st day of 2019. This 200+ page report will be made public, after the delegation to Fort Worth decided to hire a court reporter from Ft. Worth to transcribe all the meetings and interactions they had with community leaders down there over the four days they visited. *DMVDaily will post this report in its entirety once its made public.