Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young ordered an audit tonight of Baltimore’s water billing system after he said his staff found that an upscale waterfront complex in South Baltimore had not received a water bill for 12 years.
“I was outraged to learn of this major oversight in water billing as it relates to the Ritz Carlton,” Young said, placing the blame on his predecessors.
“To think that previous administrations allowed residents’ properties to be sent to tax sale [for nonpayment of water bills], while not even billing the city’s wealthiest is absolutely shameful,” Young declared in a press release.
Based on information supplied by the release, the lapse in billing occurred during the administrations of Sheila Dixon, Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Catherine Pugh.
During most of this period, Young was City Council president. He became mayor last May after Pugh resigned.
Yesterday he declared his candidacy for mayor in 2020.
“Outraged,” says the mayor, placing the blame on prior city administrations.
Foreshadowing tonight’s announcement was a report by WBAL-TV yesterday that the board of the Ritz-Carlton had “repeatedly requested [water] billing from the Department of Public Works, but only recently were any bills sent.”
The report said the mayor’s office “is aware of some of the big billing issues and will address them.”
Young said he was informed about a week ago of “a potential discrepancy with the water bills to the Ritz Carlton complex” and asked his staff to get to the bottom of the matter.
Their conclusion was that the development “had not received a water consumption bill since a water meter was installed in 2007.”
Uncertain Completion Date
The audit of the water billing system will be led by Deputy Chief of Staff Sheryl Goldstein.
Her team will compare development permits to water billing accounts, search for billing irregularities and recommend ways to improve accuracy, the release said.
There was no indication of when the audit would be completed, but its results will be made public, Young said.
His announcement comes on the heels of today’s deferral of a $5.4 million contract with Itineris North America, the city’s water billing consultant.
The Board of Estimates, which is controlled by Young, took the action after a complaint by Councilman Bill Henry.