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Skyscraper for Sale

Governor

When Bob Ehrlich first ran for govenor in 2002, he pledged to help balance the budget by selling off some of the state's assets. He ran into a bit of trouble when he tried to accomplish that by selling state-owned parkland in St. Mary's County to a well-connected construction executive.

Now his latest bid, offering Baltimore's World Trade Center to the highest bidder at a time when its assessed value is half whatsome consider it should be, has raised some hackles.

State Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp (D) questioned last week whether the Ehrlich administration may have tried to deflate the value of the Inner Harbor landmark before selling it to a well-connected bidder -- a suggestion the administration strongly denied.

Two of the six bidders in the final consideration are Baltimore Orioles owner Peter Angelos and 1st Mariner Bank Chairman Edwin F. Hale, according to a source familiar with the sale who declined to be identified because the bidding process is intended to be confidential.

Both bidders have close ties to leading Maryland political figures -- Angelos was a hefty backer of Ehrlich's, while Hale has donated to both parties and is close to Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley (D). The official did not reveal the identities of the other bidders.

Kopp says state officials have refused to sign new leases or renew expiring ones, essentially devaluing the property. "It raises very serious questions in my mind," Kopp said Friday, after being briefed on the sale by state real estate officials.

"I find it disturbing that a signature building is sitting half-empty, and I don't understand why the administration would have allowed that to happen," Kopp said. "I don't know enough to accuse anyone of doing something wrong. But I am concerned about that possibility."

State Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said everything his agency did to prepare the building for sale was done at the behest of the state's real estate consultants, all with the goal of maximizing the value to taxpayers.

"The goal is to effectuate the sale in the way that promotes public confidence in the process that we've gone through," Flanagan said. "That's my most important goal."

ADD: State officials have now agreed to wait until after O'Malley takes office to effectuate the sale, and Angelos has withdrawn his bid

Matt Mosk

By Phyllis Jordan  |  November 20, 2006; 6:52 AM ET
Categories:  Governor  
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Comments

Thank Goodness for Peter Franchot. The last paragraph of the Post story -

"... the other incoming member, Comptroller-elect Peter Franchot (D), has been clear about how he would vote."

"The building, if it were ever sold, shouldn't be sold for a penny less than $80 million," Franchot said. "This is one of the real estate jewels of the Eastern Seaboard, and it would be a sale against the interests of the taxpayers if we accepted anything less."

Let's hope the sale is delayed and a true defender of the public interest is in a position to protect Maryland's taxpayers.

Posted by: ETerry | November 20, 2006 4:11 PM | Report abuse

I agree with the comments of ETerry, even if Franchot's remark that the building is one of the "jewels of the eastern seaboard" seems a bit overblown. But,I think I heard on WAMU today, that Franchot had established a forty person plus transition team, headed by Doug Duncan.

I'm not really sure what I heard/didn't hear, but forty plus for Comptroller, sounds to me like delusions to grandeur, competition with O'Malley for the largest transition team etc. etc. Can anyone shed any light?

Posted by: Count Bobulescu | November 21, 2006 9:03 PM | Report abuse

PETER FRANCHOT UNMASKED

The "Skyscraper for Sale" deal will go though like Duncan's Yeshiva school deal. Comptroller-elect Peter Franchot must have received Abramoff's dirty campaign money via Duncan.

It is a slick back door entry for Duncan into Franchot's office that too after hip surgery and "fake" depression.

With Duncan heading Franchot's transition team, the Comptroller's office will now be packed with crooks, cronies and the cabal. Maryland coffers will be fleeced Duncan style.

Congratulations are in order for Peter Angelos - he hit a home run by planting Duncan on Franchot.

Posted by: Merlin | November 22, 2006 12:03 AM | Report abuse

Many Democratic activists in the District 20 are angry with Peter Franchot for aligning with Doug Duncan.

Posted by: Jane Smith | November 24, 2006 11:47 AM | Report abuse

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