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Tense moments color nearly 6-hour Board of Public Works meeting

Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, Gov. Martin O’Malley and Comptroller Peter Franchot at a recent Board of Public Works meeting in Annapolis. (Maximilian Franz/The Daily Record)

Gov. Martin O’Malley did not appear to enjoy himself during a nearly six hour meeting of the Board of Public Works on Wednesday.

Of course, it’s unlikely that many did. A number of controversial issues at the panel’s first meeting in nearly a month brought crowds of people to testify in the horribly crowded second-floor room where the usually biweekly meeting of the state panel is held.

The tension in the room was often most apparent during questioning from Comptroller Peter Franchot, who often disagrees with O’Malley. The governor peppered Franchot with questions about why he was opposing a loan to a Greene Turtle restaurant in Towson and could not ignore Franchot’s criticism of tax, fee and toll increases the comptroller said have sucked money out of the economy and stunted job growth.

“The jobs that we keep wanting to come back to the state just have not appeared,” Franchot said. “I don’t want to stir up DBED and have them send a bunch of data about how well we’re doing.”

“You’ve stirred me up,” O’Malley said, briefly interrupting Franchot, who went on to say he was not picking on Maryland but noting the region as a whole has struggle.

Once Franchot was finished, O’Malley couldn’t help but respond.

“The latest jobs report showed the entire region’s been hurt by the short-sighted and reckless sequester that was thrown into place supposedly against the objections of everyone in our House of so-called Representatives,” O’Malley said. “If you were to factor out those states that have a lot more minerals than they have people, Maryland’s leadership and our comeback from the recession in this recovery is pretty striking.

“Last year we achieved the best rate of job creation of any state in our region — a rate of job creation that was nearly twice that of our neighbors, our good neighbors, in the commonwealth of Virginia.”

The governor went on to say that “Maryland bashing may be popular in some circles” but independent parties including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had put Maryland at the top of lists measuring things like entrepreneurship, innovation and upward economic mobility.

Franchot chose not to argue — earning a “thank you” from O’Malley — but before the day ended the pair took aim at each other numerous additional times while trying to wade through the deep board agenda.