TOP ELRICH OFFICIAL’S BOOK DEAL WITH CONTRACTOR VIOLATES ETHICS RULES
Ex-Baltimore Budget Director Supplemented his $280,000 Montgomery County Job with a Book Deal with a County Contractor
Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich’s $280,000 “Chief Administrative Officer” Andrew Kleine has been found guilty of ethics violations. The County’s Ethics Commission reached this conclusion after reviewing payments made to Kleine from a county contractor in connection with a book he had written.
Kleine was hired by incoming County Executive Marc Elrich to the county’s top administrative position. He had previously been Baltimore City’s budget director for nearly a decade. During the interim between the Leggett and Elrich administrations, and while part of the transition process, Kleine encouraged the county to engage “Clear Impact LLC” for management services. Montgomery County then expanded its relationship with the contractor in May 2019 with a contract for “up to $99,000.”[i]
At the same time, Clear Impact LLC had a business relationship with Kleine to promote his book City on the Line. In 2018, the company had paid Kleine $5,000 toward “book expenses.”
While the county was enlarging its relationship with Clear Impact, the contractor sponsored a book signing at an industry event, from which Kleine netted additional royalties. Kleine profited from the arrangement even though the County had also reimbursed him $2,300 for travel expenses to the event. Additionally, the Ethics Commission uncovered that the County and its employees had purchased nearly 100 copies of the book for approximately $3,000.
According to the Ethics Commission, although Kleine did seek outside employment approval from them in late April of 2019 to engage in consulting and promotion of the book with Clear Impact,
“…..the Commission had not been informed of the relationships between Mr. Kleine, the Company, and Balancing Act, of Mr. Kleine and Clear Impact, the Book’s relevance to the budget strategy being implemented in Montgomery County, and the lack of separation between promotional activities associated with the Book and Mr. Kleine’s official position.”
As a penalty, though, Andrew Kleine has been given all but a slap on the wrist. He will pay the County $5,000.
The allegations were originally broken last September in a story by Dan Schere in Bethesda Beat. [ii] At the time, Marc Elrich refused to answer questions about Kleine’s relationships, other than an email statement from a spokesman that “The County Executive understands that the matter is under review by the Ethics Commission, which is an independent agency charged with the responsibility of interpreting the Ethics Law. Until that review is completed the County Executive does not believe that it would be appropriate for Executive Staff to comment on this matter.”
However, Elrich has still not yet publicly commented on the Commission’s conclusion that his top aide violated the county’s ethics rules, or whether the penalty is adequate.
Perhaps even more ominously for Kleine in an Elrich Administration than ethics violations has been the criticism of him by county public employee union leaders. At nearly the identical time as the ethics complaint became public, the leaders of three Montgomery County unions wrote County Executive Marc Elrich last August, accusing Kleine of “hindering progress” in relations between labor and county officials.[iii]