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—– By: Ann Costantino —–
Making good on an earlier promise to remove County Administrative Officer Fred Homan from his post, County Executive-elect Johnny Olszewski’s team is already busy at work, seeking to fill the vacancy before the Olszewski administration takes over next month.
The county announced yesterday that Olszewski asked Homan to retire from his job on December 3, the day Olszewski is sworn in to office. The Olszewski transition team will be conducting a national search. And they are wasting no time.
Sean Naron, a spokesperson for Olszewski, told The Baltimore Post today, “The search will effectively begin on Monday, and the County Executive-elect will announce an interim CAO (county administrative officer) on or before December 3.” Naron said, “We will be making an announcement in the coming weeks regarding an interim (CAO) and will provide an update with further details on the search process at that time.”
Asked how the county charter will impact a national search since a requirement of the position states that the county administrative officer reside in Baltimore County, Naron said, “We will engage in a robust search process. Whomever is hired to fill the position will be required to meet the charter requirements.”
Several county projects have frustrated Baltimore County residents in distant and recent years, in which Homan was found to be front and center in the decision-making:
- In 2007, Homan was involved in the “Mainsail, LLC scandal” in which the county lost $21 million in pension funds in a failed investment. Through a previous publication, the publisher of The Baltimore Post was forced to file a lawsuit in Baltimore County Circuit Court seeking public records related to the scandal. An out-of-court settlement was reached in which over 600 pages of documents were turned over. County officials met to discuss a possible lawsuit against Merrill Lynch related to the bad investment. But the county never filed the suit and the $21 million was never recovered. The money was lost in less than one month.
- In the spring of 2017, Homan ordered the removal of 30 trees and a building from a county-owned property to be sold as-is to Towson-based developer, Caves Valley Partners (CVP). Through a series of Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) requests, The Baltimore Post found that Homan initiated the removals in a hurried fashion, allowing the county to pay more in overtime and weekend work charges in order to get the jobs done quickly. The rushed removals occurred the weekend before a scheduled meeting to discuss the legal protection of some of the property’s protected specimen trees which were an impediment to the development project. The Baltimore Post later found that Homan received instructions directly from a CVP attorney on which trees to remove – and at the county’s expense.
- The Baltimore Post reported last November that Homan secretly signed a five-year contract extension for the sale of the Towson property. The extension, which benefited CVP, occurred weeks prior to a suggested mediation between the developer and community leaders. Other than county administration, no one, not even County Council members, was aware of the contract extension which put community leaders at a disadvantage at the outset of their negotiations with CVP. The Baltimore Post obtained the an amended version of the contract of sale, which included the sell-by extension, through a MPIA request.
- Through a proposed property acquisition, Homan attempted to divert $1 million in 2016 to an out-of-state, non-profit equine rehabilitation organization, Saratoga WarHorse. The deal did not go through, but neighbors and farmers close to county property are concerned that the county – through Homan – is also going off-script from the county’s master plan when implementing changes to county property — changes that some residents fear will alter the purpose of the Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park (Ag Center), from agriculture-based to equine-centered.
After questioned on the campaign trail, both the Republican and Democratic candidates promised voters a change in leadership, should either win.
A few weeks before his victory, during a candidate forum last month, Olszewski was asked –if elected– if he would replace the county administrator. Olszewski answered the moderator by saying, “Anyone who does not share (my administration’s) values will not be part of my administration.” He said, “There will be a new approach, new leadership and a new day.”