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Battle brews over EBDI board appointment

A Baltimore City Council member continues to insist that he is appointing a community activist to the East Baltimore Development Inc. board of directors even though the nonprofit’s CEO says there are no openings on the board.

“My recommendation stands,” said Warren Branch, whose district encompasses much of the 88-acre EBDI redevelopment site. “It doesn’t make any difference what anybody thinks. There is no debate from me. I represent the 13th District.”

But EBDI Chief Executive Officer Christopher Shea told The Daily Record in a Dec. 7 email, “There currently are no vacancies on the board, including the community appointments reserved for the City Council offices.”

In an email Thursday, Shea said the board voted recently to add two at-large seats “to be filled by recruitment from the community.”

“At-large seats are filled by board vote in consultation with the mayor and council president,” Shea wrote.

The Daily Record reported Nov. 30 that Branch was appointing Donald Gresham to serve as a voting member of the EBDI board. Gresham is an outspoken activist in the Middle East community and a frequent critic of EBDI’s redevelopment efforts.

But Shea told the newspaper shortly thereafter that there were no vacancies on the board.

Branch reiterated to The Daily Record last week that he had recommended Gresham for a seat on the EBDI board to fill a voting position reserved for a community resident currently held by Maurice D. Walker, a financial planner and a minister who was raised in Middle East but now lives in Bowie.

Walker is expected to leave the board by mid-2012, Branch said, and Gresham would take his place. The two community members of the board are appointed by the council members whose districts include the EBDI site.

Douglas Nelson, chairman of the EBDI board and former president of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which has invested $63.5 million in the $1.8 billion project, did not return repeated calls and emails for comment.

Walker also did not return repeated phone calls for comment.

Gresham confirmed last week that Branch had selected him for the EBDI board, and told him of his selection in a mid-November meeting at City Hall attended by Shea.

The EBDI board consists of business and government executives, including Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels, Deputy Mayor Kaliope Parthemos and Rouse Co. Foundation Chairman Anthony Deering.

Branch and 12th District Councilman Carl Stokes, whose district also includes part of the EBDI site, are non-voting members. Shea is not a board member.

Residents of the Middle East community have complained that the EBDI board does not reflect their community.

EBDI board meetings are closed to the public and the minutes are not made available for inspection. The project, the largest urban redevelopment undertaking in the U.S., has committed more than $564 million so far, $212.6 million in public funds.

Three new projects totaling another $254.4 million are expected to be under construction there in 2012: A $30 million parking garage, a $184.4 million lab for the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and a $40 million public school.