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by Mark Reutter12:52 pmAug 7, 20180

Pugh’s chief of staff was gone, and now she’s back

After a brief exit, Kimberly Morton has resumed her role as the mayor’s right hand. She’s now been assigned to supervise the troubled Human Resources department.

Above: Kimberly Morton has returned to the fold. (City of Baltimore)

Kimberly Morton, who told associates she planned to resign as Mayor Catherine Pugh’s chief of staff in late July, is back at her desk.

For a few days, the COS position was left blank on the mayor’s online cabinet roster, but then Morton’s name and photograph reappeared.

According to James Bentley, the mayor’s press secretary: “She never left as chief of staff.”

According to Morton herself, when asked today if she had resigned: “No, I don’t talk about this. I appreciate your position, and I don’t want to be rude. But everything goes through the communications department so we don’t get mixed messages going.”

The Brew was told that Morton did quit on Friday, July 20, but rejoined the administration the following week after several heart-to-heart conversations with the mayor.

Morton was put on special duty last week, assigned to supervise the daily operations of the Human Resources department in the wake of the sudden resignation of Mary H. Talley, according to a memo issued by the mayor’s office.

Talley, who served as the city’s chief human capital officer and HR director, quit on July 27. She is reportedly the subject of an inquiry by the Office of the Inspector General.

IG Isabel Mercedes Cumming refused to confirm or deny an investigation. Her office is charged with rooting out “fraud, waste and abuse” in city government.

Talley has declined to talk to The Brew about her resignation. In June, we wrote about how she and two staff members racked up $13,000 in hotel and travel expenses at a human resources conference in Chicago.

Earlier Clean-Up

As advisor and enforcer for two Baltimore mayors, Morton has gone head-to-head with several department heads.

While deputy COS under Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, for example, she helped engineer the ouster of City Solicitor George Nilson and Inspector General Robert H. Pearre.

Pearre told The Brew he was investigating staff complaints about Jerome Mullen, then director of the Mayor’s Office of Information Technology (MOIT), during the summer of 2016.

According to Pearre, Rawlings-Blake wanted the investigation stopped, but Nilson balked and asserted that he, as solicitor general, had supervisory authority over the OIG.

After Nilson’s termination and Pearre’s official resignation, Morton reportedly demanded that OIG staff hand over its electronic investigatory files to her.

The office conducted no major investigations over the next year. Then, in January 2018, Cumming was hired as the new IG, officially by City Solicitor Andre Davis.

A City Charter amendment – to come before voters on the November general election ballot – is designed to give the OIG more independence from the mayor’s office.

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