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Top pr operative joins the mayor’s office

Howard Libit takes over the new position of Director of Strategic Planning and Policy at a hefty salary of $132,000

Above: Howard Libit in June 2013 while working on a joint press conference by Mayor Rawlings-Blake and Harbor Point developer Michael Beatty.

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has hired a politically-wired public relations consultant to a high-paying City Hall job.

Howard S. Libit started work as Director of Strategic Planning and Policy, a new position, earlier this month. His annual salary of $132,000 is higher than two of Baltimore’s five deputy mayors, according to on-line salary records.

Libit’s position was not announced by the administration but was disclosed by Fox45News.

A former top editor at The Baltimore Sun, Libit helped Michael Beatty win a $107 million TIF tax incentive for his Harbor Point project as the chief operating officer of KO Public Affairs.

KO, which describes itself as a communications firm “that helps clients win where business, government, politics and media meet,” was co-founded by Steve Kearney, a longtime staffer for Martin O’Malley, and Damian O’Doherty, a former counsel to the Maryland Senate who is a trustee of the Maryland Democratic Party.

In addition to serving clients in the areas of real estate, health care, technology, transportation and retail, Libit edited Center Maryland, a self-proclaimed “centrist” news blog founded by KO interests.

The blog aggregates local news and features on-line interviews co-hosted by top City Hall and Annapolis lobbyist Lisa Harris Jones and columns by Greater Baltimore Committee President Donald C. Fry.

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Libit refused to answer questions when contacted by The Brew, saying he was about to enter a meeting. He has not returned the phone call or an email message asking about the nature of his work for the mayor.

Kevin Harris, the mayor’s chief of communications and policy, also did not answer a query about Libit’s new job.

In addition to representing Beatty Development and related entities, Libit has done public relations work for Caves Valley Partners, which is proposing the $250 million Stadium Square complex in South Baltimore.

Other clients include General Growth Properties, owner of The Gallery in the Inner Harbor; CSX Transportation, handling “crisis management” after the 26th Street wall collapse; and Sparrows Point Terminal, a group headed by Anne Arundel businessman Jim Davis that recently purchased the former Sparrows Point steel mill site.

A resident of Rodgers Forge in Baltimore County, Libit has contributed $550 to Rawlings-Blake’s campaign committee and $1,833 to O’Malley’s committee, according to online election board records.

Before he joined KO in 2009, Libit spent 15 years as a reporter and news editor at The Sun. His positions included assistant managing editor for news, city editor, state political reporter and environmental reporter, according to his LinkedIn profile.

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