The key Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) staffer said as far back as mid-August that the MSA couldn’t support the City of Frederick’s Downtown Hotel and Conference Center (DH&CC) since it involved private ownership of a publicly financed facility. The MSA officer Gary McGuigan also said the project itself “has merits” according to the 2012 feasibility report, but that they were troubled by the City’s unilateral procurement of the developer.
Today the state attorney-general’s office turned over Maryland Stadium Authority (MSA) hotel project communications with the City of Frederick in response to a Public Information Act filing I made several weeks ago.
Gary McGuigan, senior VP, Capital Project Development at MSA said in an August 13 email to Richard Griffin, City project manager: “The private ownership of a publicly financed conference center is an item MSA cannot endorse.”
On the procurement the email said: “This is a local initiative and the City structured the deal and selected the developer without state participation.”
The MSA does not say explicitly there was anything wrong with the the City’s procurement, although state officials were well aware of public criticism of the procurement — only three real sites, the proposal of the winner submitted before an RFP was issued, other proposer’s bid given cursory review, questionable scoring, all predevelopment costs to be paid by developer and no City land to be provided according to the RFP, but these reversed in favor of the developer after developer selection.
Any prudent governmental entity would be wary of getting involved in a project with this fishy a smell.
The Youngs legislation put MSA in “difficult situation”
McGuigan said in the August 13 email that the end-run legislation (SB191) making state money dependent on a 4-party agreement with the City, County, developer and MSA “placed the MSA in a difficult situation” which they had tried to “work through in our negotiation.”
By way of background: SB191 was quite different from Delegate Carol Krimm’s HB1474 that was defeated in the appropriations committees. HB1474 providing for financing of the Conference Center alone was written in cooperation with MSA and provided for City ownership of the conference center, the City pledge of its interest in the Conference Center to the MSA as security for its bonds, and City acceptance of responsibility for any losses.
Hooked or unhooked?
In contradiction of the terms of HB1474 Mayor McClement and the City Board of Aldermen have always insisted that City taxpayers will not be “on the hook” for losses. SB191 was hurriedly written by Delegate Karen Lewis Young and husband Senator Ron Young.
They dismissed MSA concerns saying that they’d get state support via other agencies like MEDCO if MSA wouldn’t sign on. The Youngs’ SB191 provided for state support for financing the whole Downtown Hotel and Conference Center complex — saying nothing about ownership or responsibility for losses, requiring only “a historic easement” for the Maryland Historical Trust, and a 4-party MOU maximizing city and county financial commitments and minimizing cost to the state.
After MSA indicated they wanted out the City’s Richard Griffin talked MEDCO into getting involved. He hoped that if MEDCO assumed ownership of the Conference Center this would satisfy MSA to the extent they wouldn’t explicitly dissociate themselves from the hotel project. He proposed what he called an Ownership Options Meeting at MSA offices in Baltimore September 1, or a 5-party conference call. Griffin said timing was “becoming critical” because appropriations committee people were coming to Frederick in the next week and were “asking us for a project and legal agreement update.”
No meeting, no conference call but MSA guy could “step out of a long meeting for a little bit” for Richard’s call
MSA officials expressed regret saying they had other commitments. McGuigan said instead of a meeting or conference call the next Wednesday on the Friday (Sept 9) he could “step out of the four hour meeting on schools for a little bit” to take a call from Griffin.
So much for any 5-party meeting.
Griffin the author of the 5-party MOU — state agencies not interested
Griffin alone wrote the 5-party draft MOU providing for MEDCO ownership and MEDCO tax increment financing and before MSA or MEDCO had responded asked MSA’s McGuigan if he could brief and share the document
with visiting House Appropriations members. McGuigan said No he hadn’t reviewed it: “Richard, I think it is premature to share this document with anyone. I will review tomorrow and we can discuss on Friday.”
MEDCO was not really onboard either. Instead of commenting on the draft Bob Brennan MEDCO chief executive asked Griffin for six sets of documents on the project. Griffin provided the six documents but there is no record of any MEDCO response.
Griffin meanwhile wrote to the Mayor and Board Sept 30 of the 5-party MOU that “Key representatives from each partnering organization participated in
the crafting and/or review of the draft MOU…” and he listed MSA’s executive director Michael Frenz, capital projects director Gary McGuigan and MEDCO executive director Bob Brennan. He clearly implied they had bought in to the 5-party MOU, when they had not.
An interesting sidelight: all Griffin’s emails were copied to city, county and state officials supporting the Hotel project, but only to supporters.
MSA says “no role” in Frederick hotel project: http://frederickhotelboondoggle.us/2016/11/msa-says-no-role-for-state-agency-in-frederick-hotel-project/
MEDCO won’t move on hotel until City gets its act together: