ANNAPOLIS – Maryland senators continued to quiz state officials on the process for public disclosure of real estate transactions Thursday.
The Senate Budget and Taxation Committee hearing, one of several on the subject, was prompted by media disclosures last October that the administration had agreed to sell an 836-acre parcel of environmentally sensitive land in St. Mary’s County to developer Willard J. Hackerman, who was to donate it back to the state.
However, lawmakers later learned Hackerman proposed building homes on at least part of that land and that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. evidently knew of the arrangement.
Since then other questionable deals to sell state lands, including some portions of park lands, have been disclosed.
On Thursday, committee members questioned a panel of agency officials about the details of how the state decides a property is surplus, and then how it proceeds to dispose of it.
The committee wanted to know whether more direct oversight by the General Assembly was warranted to prevent future dubious incidents.
Sen. Patrick J. Hogan, D-Montgomery, committee vice chairman, illustrated lawmakers’ concern with a homegrown example.
“My wife and I buy a home together. She can’t just go sell it. The General Assembly feels that when land or a building is sold, we should have some say in it,” Hogan said.
Boyd K. Rutherford, secretary of the Department of General Services, assured him the General Assembly would be notified.
“So she sends a note to me,” Hogan said, continuing his analogy.
Rutherford said that the General Assembly would have 45 days to comment.
“To comment — not block,” Hogan said.
Rutherford questioned the level of oversight lawmakers would want over such sales, warning, “Be careful what you ask for.”
Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, R-Somerset, said he thought the St. Mary’s affair was a fiasco, and he hoped it was behind them.
Echoing a comment of Audrey E. Scott, secretary of the Department of Planning, he said, “The silver lining is that I hope we now understand the process better.”