By BRIAN WITTE
ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Two state senators are questioning travel expenses incurred by Comptroller Peter Franchot to distribute four kinds of awards at ceremonies around the state. The comptroller responded Friday that he believes the motivation for their inquiries is political rather than fiscal stewardship.
Sen. Nancy King, D-Montgomery, and David Brinkley, R-Frederick, wrote the comptroller Wednesday, expressing increasing concern about a variety of awards created by his office which are “completely unrelated to your role as our chief tax collector.” They wrote the awards appear to have been created since Jan. 1, 2010.
“We see no reason why any of your state duties or responsibilities justifies the taxpayer financed expense of paying for a driver, security, gas, car mileage, or the manufacture and purchase of questionably invented awards,” the senators wrote, asking for a copy of his travel schedule and costs related to the awards.
The senators noted the citizens undoubtedly do great things, but that they accept the awards believing they have been given something endorsed broadly by the state “when it is in reality only something solely manufactured and endorsed by you.”
They added: “To spend state dollars engaging in these kinds of activities gravely troubles us.”
Franchot, a Democrat, responded in a three-page letter, noting that he is a statewide constitutional officer. He also wrote he believes the authority of the office comes with the right and responsibility to visit communities across the state. Franchot noted he believes it’s important to be able to sit down with working taxpayers and have honest conversations about the opportunities and challenges facing the economy.
The comptroller said the awards recognize people who have saved taxpayer dollars, generated much-needed tax revenue or improved quality of life in their communities.
Franchot wrote that the insinuation he can carry out his responsibilities only from Annapolis in hallways, backrooms and at evening receptions “personifies the sense of disconnected arrogance that has alienated far too many people from government.”
“It is glaringly obvious that this letter is motivated not by honest fiscal stewardship, but lingering resentment over some of the positions that I have taken, and some of the statements that I have made, as an independently elected comptroller,” Franchot wrote.
The comptroller noted the costs of the awards amounted to just more than $5,000, a fraction of what it costs Maryland taxpayers to house a lawmaker in Annapolis for the 90-day session, at the current daily rates of $101 for lodging, $42 for meals and 57 cents per mile of authorized travel.
Franchot, a former delegate who is in his second term as comptroller, had been weighing a run for governor in 2014. But he announced in December he will seek re-election as comptroller.
(Copyright 2013 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)