Anyone who has had to sit through a meeting that lasted all day knows that sometimes it can be hard to stay focused.
Such was the case Wednesday, when during a long and unusual Board of Public Works meeting Gov. Martin J. O’Malley appeared to have trouble keeping his eyes open.
O’Malley, Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp were all part of six hours of public meetings that began in the State Treasury Building at 10 a.m. with the exciting world of state bond sales and ended up the street until about 4 p.m. in the Governor’s Reception Room in the State House.
The timing of O’Malley’s struggles with the sandman — those early afternoon, right-after- lunch hours — came during a more than two-hour portion of the meeting set aside for discussion of wetlands permits for the controversial Cove Point liquid natural gas export facility in Lusby, Calvert County.
The heavy eyelids didn’t escape the notice of a number of attendees and reporters in the room at the time.
Tracey Eno, a resident of Lusby and opponent of the facility, was irked by the governor nodding off during the meeting.
“I’ve been asking for a meeting with the governor for months,” Eno said. “In lieu of that, I was given a meeting with his energy director. Finally I got the chance to look him in the eye. As I patiently explained to him why we were opposed to this, his eyelids dropped and he fell asleep. I don’t feel like he heard our message.”
The board ultimately voted unanimously to approve the permits.
Nina Smith, a spokeswoman for the governor, said O’Malley had been fully briefed on the issues related to the proposed facility. She said the governor gave wide latitude to opponents and proponents to speak their minds even though much of what was said was outside of what O’Malley and the Board of Public Works could consider.
“He was fully briefed on the issue,” Smith said. “He responded to the issue. He voted on the issue and the issue here was the wetlands permits.”
Smith did not dispute that the governor may have closed his eyes for a few seconds but said “he was listening intently.”
She noted the length of the Wednesday schedule and the difficulty of sitting through a six-hour long meeting.
“He’s only human,” she said.
Indeed, O’Malley has had a difficult schedule of late that has included traveling out of state to raise money — a move that is seen as connected to a potential 2016 presidential campaign — as well as meetings to discuss how religious and other charitable organizations might assist with the housing and care of some of the more than 57,000 Central American children who have illegally crossed the border into the United States from Mexico since October.
O’Malley is hardly the first public official to doze off at an inopportune time.
In 2012, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was caught on camera napping during an meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.
The New York Post caught former President Bill Clinton nodding off during a speech honoring Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. Clinton’s wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton was caught by the cameras falling asleep during what was described as a historic speech given by President Barack Obama in Myanmar.
Even reporters sometimes have trouble fighting off the urge. Hey, we sit in six hour meetings, too.