Comptroller Peter Franchot had waited long enough for the other two members of the Board of Public Works, the treasurer and the governor, to show up for their biweekly 10 a.m. meeting Wednesday.
After checking his watch, around 10:20 Franchot scanned the room, and acknowledged “all you busy people waiting here.” The often-packed meeting was unusually crowded with 75 people seated and 50 standing at the back and sides of the Governor’s Reception Room on the second floor of the 235-year-old State House.
There were at least four cabinet secretaries, dozens of lesser bureaucrats, contractors, lobbyists, attorneys and reporters, all with some interest in the scores of contracts worth hundreds of millions in state spending awaiting approval on the 255-page agenda.
“I thought of starting the meeting at 10:30, but it probably wouldn’t help,” Franchot said.
The comptroller has refused to attend the pre-meetings that are technically open to the public in a smaller conference room difficult to find, which all but a reporter or two ever attend. Franchot has taken to showing up pretty much on time, and waiting for the arrival of State Treasurer Nancy Kopp and Gov. Martin O’Malley, who chairs the board.
“If we can’t start meetings on time, no wonder we have problems,” Franchot said.
Getting a late start at BPW has been common throughout the O’Malley administration, and before that under Gov. Bob Ehrlich. Governors seem to typically run 10 to 20 minutes behind schedule – unless of course you’re running late. Then the meeting, news conferences and announcement start on time.
As Kopp and then O’Malley came out of the governor’s office, the meeting commenced at about 10:27 a.m. and, despite the mammoth agenda, lasted only about 50 minutes, fairly short as these things go.