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Neighborhoodsby Danielle Sweeney9:14 amSep 29, 20140

Applicants for Council seat call on nominating committee to reconvene

Three candidates publicly say the nominating process lacked transparency; others weigh a protest about the Costello nomination to the 11th District

Above: Melanie Ambridge and Ben Smith (leaning forward) are among the 11th District candidates protesting the nominating process.

Some applicants for the 11th District City Council seat are formally protesting the way the nomination was decided and calling on the Council to reconvene the committee.

Benjamin Smith, a candidate who serves as student body president of the University of Maryland School of Law, said several applicants were drafting a letter to the Council requesting a reconvening of the nominating committee because they feel the process lacked transparency.

After four hours of testimony from 14 candidates last Tuesday, Adrian Harpool, a political advisor to City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and member of the nominating committee – nominated Eric Costello for the 11th District seat without discussion.

Harpool put the vote to the committee, who voted overwhelmingly to support Costello. The decision in favor of Costello was made in about four minutes.

Greg Sileo, who lives in Locust Point, was also nominated. His name was not brought to vote, however.

The 11th District, which covers South Baltimore, the Inner Harbor and midtown, was vacated when William Cole IV was named president of the Baltimore Development Corporation by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake.

City Council President has denied undertaking any backroom maneuvering to advance the 11th District candidacy of Eric Costello. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

The losing candidates’ ire has been directed at Council President Jack Young, who has denied any involvement in advancing the Costello candidacy through the nominating committee. (Photo by Mark Reutter)

Costello, an IT specialist who lives in Federal Hill and is president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association, received letters of support.

But unlike any of the other 14 candidates, letters opposing his candidacy came from members of his association, some who have battled with him over the controversial Crossbar biergarten proposal in Federal Hill. Thirty-five residents signed a petition opposing Costello’s candidacy.

When asked about the number of letters of opposition Costello received, Councilman Carl Stokes, who headed the nominating committee, said, “It was 11, but if you count the petition, it was a lot more than that.”

Not About Costello, About the Process

Smith said the applicants’ protest is not about Costello’s victory.

“This isn’t about discontent over the nominee; this is about the process. We are clear on that. . . We want the vacancy nominating committee to explain the pros and cons of each candidate, and the letters of support and opposition should be considered and reacted to. The public deserves an explanation.”

None of the letters were made available to the vacancy nominating committee before the vote.

Smith, who was a field director for the Brian Frosh for Attorney General campaign, said he “found the whole process to be controlled and contrived by Jack Young.”

“In politics, you expect some jockeying or going through the motions; I thought they would have done a better job of hiding it. To have a four- hour hearing and then have Young’s former campaign manager push for a vote after just four minutes. I don’t know what to call that. I really don’t.”

Melanie Ambridge, who lives in South Baltimore and applied for the district seat, has written her own letter to the Council asking them to send the nomination back to the committee.

“Clearly, the candidates were baffled and surely the [committee] was surprised by the speed with which the candidates were considered and voted upon,” she said. “I am certain you don’t want the citizens of Baltimore to feel the work of the council is fixed.”

Ambridge, the daughter of former City Councilman Anthony Ambridge, said in her letter she will withdraw her application if the committee reconvenes.

She added that she is also part of a group that will be asking the Council to send the decision back to the nominating committee.

“In-Your-Face Corruption”

Rob LaPin, who lives in Ridgely’s Delight and previously ran for delegate in the 40th district, characterized the nomination process as “sheer, utter, in-your-face corruption.”

“The biggest hindrance to Baltimore’s progress is the city investing in corrupt politicians,” he said. “The people just want something fair. I want justice to be served.”

LaPin said he was also among a group of applicants considering their options.

Applicant Arthur McGreevy, an attorney with Silverman, Thompson, Slutkin, and White, sent a Maryland Public Information Act Request to Jack Young’s office requesting copies of scheduled meetings between Young and the candidates, resumes, letters of support/opposition, and notes taken by Adrian Harpool.

He requested to have the materials this week because Costello goes before the Council for confirmation next Monday (October 6).

Several applicants for the vacant council seat were contacted for this story.

Jon Kucskar, deputy legal counsel to Gov. Martin O’Malley; Anthony Vittoria, a lawyer at Ober Kaler; and Shannon Sullivan, who works for the Office of Internal Oversight at the Baltimore Police Department, declined to comment. Greg Sileo could not be reached.

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