Taxpayers had a big victory in Baltimore today. The Circuit Court voided the $1.5 billion State Center Project.
The State Center Project was a controversial public-private partnership that made little business sense and has been tied up in court for the last several years. Huge cost estimates and giant public subsidies to politically connected developers led many in and out of government to hope for its collapse. As is so often the case in these large state deals, the state did a very poor job negotiating and the taxpayer was definitely getting the short end of the deal.
The project finally stalled when several competing Baltimore property owners filed suit to stop the project. Frustrated by the slow pace of the litigation, the Governor and General Assembly tried to do an end run around the lawsuit by unsuccessfully changing the law concerning judicial review of public private partnerships. Today’s ruling finally kills the project and is a definite victory for taxpayers.
Baltimore City Circuit Court Judge Althea Handy issued summary judgment in the State Center case in favor of the plaintiffs on the material counts. She ruled that the O’Malley Administration violated procurement laws and ruled that the State Center project documents should have been competitively bid, and that by not doing so the state violated the procurement laws of Maryland. As a result, she held that the contract documents are void.
The Maryland Public Policy Institute was instrumental in investigating and publicizing the project’s problems and deserves great kudos for its work in helping to kill the project. You can view more information about the controversy surrounding the State Center Project by viewing their link.