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Accountabilityby David A. Plymyer8:19 amApr 13, 20240

With rubber-stamp Walker confirmation hearing, Baltimore County Council embarrasses itself

The Council has ample reason to be worried about D’Andrea Walker’s ethics and judgment. But you’d never know it from the work session held on her nomination to become the county administrative officer. [OP-ED]

Above: The Baltimore County Council, clockwise from top left: Izzy Patoka, David Marks, Mike Ertel, Pat Young, Wade Kach, Julian E. Jones and Todd Crandell.

Over the years, I’ve watched innumerable confirmation hearings, but never one quite like the Baltimore County Council’s surreal work session on the proposed confirmation of D’Andrea Walker as the next county administrative officer (CAO).

Walker, the director of Public Works and Transportation (DPWT), was nominated by County Executive Johnny Olszewski, Jr. to replace Stacy Rodgers, who is retiring.

Troubling questions about her leadership and integrity arose during her 3½-year tenure as head of DPWT, which began with her appointment as acting director in November 2020. Those questions seemed to bear out the concerns expressed about her credentials and experience when she was first appointed by Olszewski.

That history would lead one to expect the hearing to be serious, even a bit tense, as Council members fulfilled their duty under the county charter to make sure that the person nominated by the county executive for the county’s second most powerful position was up to the job.

Instead, it was a virtual lovefest. Only Republican Councilman Todd Crandell asked Walker about the criticism directed toward her, and then all but apologized for doing so. And even his question was simply an invitation for her to give a speech, which she did.

Members of the seven-member Council were fawning in their praise of Walker. They chatted with her about her appointment as if it was a foregone conclusion, and did so without even bothering to wait and hear the testimony in opposition.

It was as if the lawmakers wanted to make sure that Walker and anyone else watching the proceedings knew that they were just going through the motions.

D'Andrea Walker at Baltimore County Council work session on Tuesday. (Mark Reutter)

D’Andrea Walker testifies before the Council at the April 9 confirmation hearing. (Mark Reutter)

Serious Allegations Brushed Off

In 2022, Kelly Madigan, the county inspector general, cited Walker for improperly altering DPWT policies and procedures for the sole purpose of granting a request by Councilman Julian E. Jones Jr. that funds from the county’s Alley Reconstruction Project (ARP) be used to repave a private commercial alley in Towson owned by a businessman who later donated $3,000 to Jones’ campaign account.

Walker overruled the decision by the chief of the highway design bureau denying Jones’ request. The head of ARP asked to be removed from the project, alleging that Walker’s actions were unethical.

Stories also were published in 2022 by The Brew and The Baltimore Sun describing how a private fundraiser held for Olszewski by trash hauler Jack Haden set in motion a chain of events that ended with Walker overruling the recommendation by the veteran chief of solid waste management, Michael Beichler, regarding Haden’s application to operate a privately-owned solid waste transfer station.

Beichler disclosed in a letter to the Council last month that much of the information in the stories came from him.

Walker, who had no experience in solid waste management, overruled Beichler and recommended to Olszewski that the county’s Solid Waste Management Plan (SWMP) be amended to allow Haden to build the station, known as the Eagle Transfer Station.

Beichler retired early because he believed he could not ethically support the recommendation.

If approved, the Eagle Transfer Station would have been a windfall for a big Olszewski donor, but a costly mistake for county taxpayers. Olszewski dropped the proposal like a hot potato after the facts about it were made public by the media.

In short, the Council has ample reason to be concerned about Walker’s ethics and judgment.

But you’d never have known that from the confirmation hearing, during which she was not asked a single question about either of her two controversial decisions. Are they afraid of offending her?

Members of the 2024 Baltimore County Council congratulate Izzy Patoka as their chair. From Left: Mike Ertel, David Marks, Patoka, Julina Jones, Wade Kach and Pat Young. Todd Crandell (R. 7th) was absent. (Mark Reutter)

Izzy Patoka (holding gavel) is congratulated by his colleagues after becoming the Council’s new chair in January. (Mark Reutter)

No Questions, No Apology

As described in The Brew, Beichler and Whitney Dudley, another retired DPWT employee, testified in opposition to Walker’s appointment. No one on the Council asked either of them a single question.

Dudley pushed back on Walker’s suggestion that racism caused an exodus of senior DPWT employees when she took over. Dudley stated that the cause was that employees were asked to do things that they knew they shouldn’t do.

The county owes Beichler, who worked for the county for 28 years, a debt of gratitude for blowing the whistle on the Eagle Transfer Station proposal.

Instead, he was subjected to a gratuitous county police investigation based, in part, on information supplied by Walker.

I thought that there might be one brave or decent person on the Council who would thank Beichler for speaking up, and express regret for the consequences he suffered as a result.


The editorial board of The Sun recently lamented that the Baltimore County Council is so consumed by small-minded politics that it can’t do effective land use planning.

I have news for the editorial board: The Council is so consumed by small-minded politics that there are many things it doesn’t do effectively, including perform its oversight role in the appointment of the county’s most important non-elected official.

The Council embarrassed itself by the way it handled the confirmation hearing on Tuesday. I don’t expect much better at Monday’s legislative session when the vote on Walker’s confirmation is scheduled.

• David A. Plymyer retired as Anne Arundel County Attorney after 31 years in the county law office. To reach him: dplymyer@comcast.net and Twitter @dplymyer.

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