City paid $13,500 as share of $67,500 lobbying fees to rout opposition to downtown hotel funding (ORIGINAL FAULTY REPORT)

The City of Frederick paid $13,500 toward lobbying services at the General Assembly to advance efforts to gain some $16 million of state funding for the Downtown Hotel & Conference Center (DH&CC) project. The lobbying was done by Greenwill Consulting of Annapolis. 

According to a response to a Public Information Act (PIA) we filed with the City, Greenwill was formally engaged by the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce which paid the lobbyist’s bills. Costs were shared by six “partners” in the effort to get state funds: Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, Frederick County Tourism Council, Frederick County Office of Economic Development, Downtown Frederick Partnership, and the City of Frederick Department of Economic Development.  The Chamber of Commerce is the only one of the six wholly independent of county and city government. The Downtown Partnership and Tourism Council both rely on  a mix of local government and business funds.

If the cost was split equally between the five $67,500 was spent on the lobbying effort which went from January to May. (NOTE: The ‘If” turned out to be wrong. But it enabled us to get some responses from otherwise unresponsives, and we did correct as soon as we were able  P Sam)

Richards Griffin, director of the City Department of Economic Development who responded to the PIA questions describes Greenwill’s role: “Generally the Scope of Work was to monitor legislation and budget hearings regarding the Downtown Frederick Conference Center Project, scheduling meetings with key leadership, educating key members of the budget committees on the Frederick objectives and needs. “

Greenwill is a three person firm with offices near the general assembly office buildings. It’s principal figure is Ivan Lanier, a longtime lobbyist in the state capital.

Lanier did not appear at any of the public hearings where City, County and  business interests spoke. His job was to advise, and work the offices and corridors. The initial pair of bills (HB1474, SB1038) failed in the House appropriations and the Senate Finance Committee. But a separate pair of bills (HB151, SB191) bypassed those finance committees and after contentious debate were passed with the help of the House and Senate leadership.

The eight member Frederick County delegation was 5 to 3 against the funding.

The hiring of a professional lobbyist on behalf of the City Hotel project came to light at the April 13 event  at the site of the proposed hotel. In his speech celebrating the promises of state money for the downtown hotel conference center project  Earl Robbins the City’s hotel advisory committee chairman mentioned Greenwill Consulting which he called “our lobbyist” in a list of people and groups he thanked for their help in getting the funds.

Another lobbyist Bruce Bereano hired by Holiday Inn opposed the funding. He spoke at several public hearings, announcing himself as working on behalf of his client.

It seems unusual for local governments to pay for lobbying services in the state capital, especially when their delegate are divided on the issue.

http://www.greenwillgroup.com

P Sam 2016-05-13

Frederick County Chamber of Commerce,

Frederick County Tourism Council,

Frederick County Office of Economic Development,

Downtown Frederick Partnership, and the

City of Frederick Department of Economic Development.

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