What are the crooked Democrats up to in Annapolis? Backroom dealing by Democrats without a hearing removes oversight of education spending by Board of Public Works –  “I am going to veto this right now and do it right here.” – Gov. Larry Hogan

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Maryland Board of Public Works, Treasurer Nancy Kopp, Gov. Larry Hogan, Comptroller Peter Franchot

 

What are the crooked Democrats up to in Annapolis?

Backroom dealing by Democrats without a hearing removes oversight of education spending by Board of Public Works –

“I am going to veto this right now and do it right here.” – Gov. Larry Hogan

Comptroller Franchot: “This should not be about personalities or political vendettas, this is an open process where parents teachers and students have a say – not a closed process where Senate President and the Speaker enjoy complete and absolute control.”

Comptroller Peter Franchot with former Leonardtown Mayor J. Harry Norris. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY

Statement from Comptroller Franchot:

“I applaud the Governor for vetoing House Bill 1783.

The fact that this piece of legislation, which would fundamentally change the structure of Maryland state government, was rushed through the legislative process – without any public hearings or input in the Senate – is demonstrative of the deficit of transparency and accountability in this town… It’s truly sad.

This should not be about personalities or political vendettas. This is about an open process where parents, teachers, and students have a say and are heard, and a closed process where the Senate President and the Speaker enjoy complete and absolute control.

This is about a process where all Maryland students are treated equally regardless of their income level versus a process that rewards school systems with connections to powerful Annapolis insiders and the politically connected.

This is about preserving a process where every child gets an equal opportunity, and where parents, teachers, and taxpayers have a platform for their voices to be heard.” – Comptroller Peter Franchot

MIDNIGHT GRAB FOR MILLIONS BY TWO MIKES —  Sen. Mike Miller, Veterans Secretary George Owings, Speaker Mike Busch, right. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

Governor Larry Hogan Vetoes Bills Eroding School Accountability
Bills Remove Critical Oversight of Billions in School Construction Funding, Protect Bad Teachers Charged with Misconduct from Termination

ANNAPOLIS, MD – Governor Larry Hogan on April 4, 2018, vetoed two bills that undermine critical oversight and accountability of Maryland public schools. The legislation, passed by the Maryland General Assembly and presented early to the governor, includes House Bill 1783, which would strip oversight over school construction funding from the state’s top fiscal leaders, and Senate Bill 639, which would add an unnecessary layer of bureaucracy to the process of removing teachers charged with misconduct.

HB 1783 removes the historic oversight from the Board of Public Works, comprised of the governor, the comptroller, and the treasurer, over billions of dollars in school construction funds and gives it to the Interagency Commission on School Construction (IAC). The IAC is an unelected, unaccountable body consisting of political appointees, which have historically included lobbyists and individuals with potential conflicts of interest.

“At a time when Marylanders are crying out for more accountability, more oversight, and more transparency in education spending, the legislature ignored those pleas. I can only assume that some legislators had no idea what they were voting on when their party leaders forced them to cast this horrible vote. But let me be very clear: anyone who votes to override this veto will be voting against transparency, against accountability in education, against fiscal responsibility, and against the wishes of an overwhelming majority of Marylanders,” said Governor Hogan as he vetoed the bill during a meeting of the Board of Public Works Wednesday morning.

Hogan: “In a process that reeked of the smoke-filled backrooms and political machines of the past, this disastrous IAC provision was amended onto an initially promising piece of legislation and then hustled through the legislature in a secretive process with no public hearings, no notice, and limited debate.”

In a process that reeked of the smoke-filled backrooms and political machines of the past, this disastrous IAC provision was amended onto an initially promising piece of legislation and then hustled through the legislature in a secretive process with no public hearings, no notice, and limited debate. As the Presiding Officers rammed the bill through with little regard to transparency, the Senate President and other legislative leaders stated on the record that the effort was actually about settling petty personal scores within their own party – not serving Maryland students, parents, and taxpayers.

“I will never sit by and allow our children to be used as political pawns in what is a perplexing and ultimately deeply depressing situation that you have chosen to create,” wrote Governor Hogan in his veto letter to legislative leadership.

The governor also vetoed SB 639, which makes it more difficult for Maryland schools to remove teachers who have been recommended for termination by school superintendents for misconduct by creating an unnecessary and bureaucratic arbitration process before any action can be taken. The bill gives power over these important decisions to an arbitrator – who does not have to be a Maryland resident – instead of local school boards, which have to answer to parents.

“The vast majority of our teachers do an incredible job, often making tough personal sacrifices, educating our students,” wrote Governor Hogan in his veto letter to legislative leadership. “However, those who consistently fail our children and consistently fail to achieve our state’s high standards should not be protected through an extra layer of obscure bureaucracy.”

This bill is the latest in a series of unfortunate actions by the General Assembly to pass flawed bills that negatively impact Maryland’s public schools. In addition to the bills the governor vetoed today, the legislature passed the disastrous “Protect our [Failing] Schools Act” during the last session, which resulted in Maryland having the second-lowest accountability standards in the nation under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). This session, legislators have failed to move forward on legislation proposed by the governor to improve Maryland’s standing under ESSA, and to create an Investigator General to investigate wrongdoing in school systems across the state.

The legislature’s actions to undermine school accountability come amid multiple scandals and allegations of improper conduct in multiple jurisdictions, including unethical behavior resulting in a the former Baltimore County school superintendent pleading guilty to perjury, troubling results of a state investigation into grade changes in Prince George’s County, widespread mold issues in Howard County school facilities, fiscal mismanagement in Baltimore City, and sexual misconduct by multiple school employees in Montgomery County.

The vetoed bills will be returned to the Maryland General Assembly, where they will either be sustained or overridden.

Read the governor’s veto letter for HB 1783 here.

Read the governor’s veto letter for SB 639 here.

Senator Nathaniel T. Oaks (Democrat, Baltimore City) Pleads Guilty to Bribery

Sen. Nathaniel T. Oaks pleaded guilty to bribery in Federal Court on March 29, 2018.

Baltimore, Maryland –Maryland State Senator Nathaniel Thomas Oaks,  71, of Baltimore, Maryland, pleaded guilty March 29, 2018, to one count of wire fraud and one count of honest services wire fraud.

The guilty plea was announced by Acting United States Attorney for the District of Maryland Stephen M. Schenning and Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Baltimore Field Office.

According to the plea agreement, Oaks was a Maryland State Delegate representing District 41 (Baltimore City) from 1994 until being appointed to the Maryland Senate in February 2017, representing the same District.

According to the statement of facts in support of the plea agreement, on September 21, 2015, a cooperating individual introduced Oaks to an FBI confidential human source, “Mike Henley,” who portrayed himself as an out-of-town businessperson interested in obtaining contracts in the City of Baltimore. The meeting took place at a restaurant in Pikesville, Maryland, and was consensually recorded by Henley.  During the meeting, Oaks offered to assist Henley with business development in Maryland.

During the months following the September 21, 2015 meeting between Henley and Oaks, Henley consensually recorded numerous telephone and in-person conversations with Oaks during which they discussed the possible development and business-related opportunities that may be available to Henley in Maryland.  One such opportunity was a United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) project (the Project) that Henley told Oaks that he was interested in developing in the City.  Oaks told Henley that he wanted to help with the HUD project.

 

According to the plea agreement, between the months of April 2016 and July 2016, Oaks issued two letters on his official House of Delegates letterhead which contained materially false and fraudulent representations to a person whom he believed to be a HUD official in order to assist Henley in obtaining federal grant funds from HUD.  Henley paid Oaks $10,300 for his assistance.

According to the plea agreement, between the months of April 2016 and July 2016, Oaks issued two letters on his official House of Delegates letterhead which contained materially false and fraudulent representations to a person whom he believed to be a HUD official in order to assist Henley in obtaining federal grant funds from HUD.  Henley paid Oaks $10,300 for his assistance.

According to the statement of facts in support of the plea agreement, on September 22, 2016, Henley paid Oaks $5,000 in exchange for Oaks’ agreement to file a bond bill request with the Maryland Department of Legislative Services (DLS) seeking $250,000 in state funds for the Project.  Oaks filed the bill request with DLS later that day. On November 21, 2016, Oaks forwarded an email to Henley that had been sent to him by DLS.  The email attached the draft of the bill to establish a $250,000 bond to be used for the Project.

All the money paid to Oaks by Henley was supplied by the FBI and the meetings were recorded using audio/video recording equipment.

On or about January 9, 2017, Oaks confessed to two FBI agents that he has accepted the first two payments from Henley in exchange for issuing two letters to HUD on his official House of Delegates letterhead and that he knew the letters contained materially false statements in an effort to assist Henley with his housing project. Oaks further confessed to the agents that he had accepted the third payment from Henley in exchange for filing a request for DLS to draft the Bond Bill Legislation.

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Oaks agreed to cooperate with the FBI in an investigation of Person #1 for possible violations of federal criminal laws. As part of that cooperation, and at the direction of the FBI, Oaks covertly recorded his telephone conversations and in-person meetings with Person #1 beginning on January 9, 2017, and continuing until March 30, 2017.

According to the plea agreement, on or about March 17, 2017, without recording or disclosing the existence of the conversation to the FBI, Oaks approached Person #1 at a bar in Annapolis and told him “what we talked about, just say no.” On March 30, 2017, Oaks again approached Person #1 in the hallway of a State government building in Annapolis and said: “I’m going to ask you for something, just say no.” These statements were intended to dissuade Person #1 from engaging in the activity that was the subject of the criminal investigation and which activity Oaks and Person #1 had discussed in a recorded conversation earlier that day.

As a result of Oaks’ deliberate and intentional conduct in tipping off Person #1, the covert investigation of Person #1 and possibly other politicians was no longer viable.

Oaks faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for the wire fraud count and 20 years in prison for the honest services wire fraud count. Oaks is scheduled to be sentenced July 17, 2018, at 11 a.m. in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

 

 

 

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