News and Media
Published: September 19, 2012
It’s been years since we’ve heard anything substantial from Baltimore City Comptroller Joan Pratt. The four-term incumbent habitually runs unopposed and declines to return City Paper’s calls. As head of a $17-million agency charged with bookkeeping and audit duties, it’s probably best that she let her reports speak for her. So we were mighty surprised to hear she stood up at a Board of Estimates meeting in July and told Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake that she had awarded an obscure internet-based telephone contract in violation of competitive bidding rules. And that the mayor was telling “untruths” when denying knowledge about the $659,000 deal, and that SRB had tried to buy her silence by offering to include money in the budget for two new positions in Pratt’s department. Of course, it was a turf war. (Turns out $16 million of her office’s budget is linked to her control of the city government phone system.) And, of course, Pratt lost. But for a few hot midsummer weeks, no one knew what would deploy next from the city’s two most powerful elected officials’ offices—or their mouths. Or what bizarre and slightly sleazy financial arrangements might be extracted from the bowels of the city budget. With no audits to speak of, it was the next-best thing.