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Gov. Martin J. O'Malley struggled to stay awake during testimony for and against a state wetlands permit for the proposed Cove Point liquid natural gas export facility. The meeting was half of what was six hours of public meetings on July 23. (The Daily Record/Bryan P. Sears)

O’Malley struggles with the sandman

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.


  1. Governor O’Malley: Perhaps if you focused less on your future ambitions and more on the concerns of your constituents, you wouldn’t feel the need to fall asleep as they attempted to communicate with you.

    How often have you granted access to Dominion and other gas industry officials (i.e. ANGA), Governor? We’ve been trying to reach you for months – phone calls, emails, letters. All we get are staff who promise to “pass the message” to you. We’ve had NO dialogue with you. Nada.

    You mentioned at this charade of a “hearing” yesterday that these issues have already been covered by FERC and the MD PSC. Governor: WE, YOUR CONSTITUENTS, HAVE HAD NO OPPORTUNITY FOR DIALOGUE – only 1-way meetings where our questions are never answered, neither by FERC, nor the PSC, nor anyone else. Except Dominion, of course – they get to answer everything.

    We’ve had nothing more than the type of sham hearing we had before you and Comptroller Franchot yesterday, political theater at best. Our county level officials made deals w/Dominion before Calvert County residents even knew about this issue, and have shut us out ever since. Senators and Congressional representatives have shut us out as well. Dominion’s dollars and political reach seem impossible for us to fight – you, Franchot, and the others are proof of that.

    So, you’ve been “fully briefed” on the issue? Interesting. Who provided our side of the story?

    Governor, and Mr. Franchot: I’ve voted for both of you consistently in the past, having been a MD resident since 1997. I’ll never make this mistake again… Many MD citizens from across the state will not forget this shameful hypocrisy on both your parts.

  2. Joan Fratantuono

    Governor O’Malley, you use your office of power to bring slot machines into Maryland and we have yet to see a dollar go towards Education, bridges or roads. Now you’re working on another Casino for our soon to be Las Vegas Gambling State. If that isn’t enough, now you’re approving this ridiculous LNG cove Point Gas Facility in a small residential County to supply gas to another Country who will not appreciate it nor will they accept us any better. I along with the citizens of Calvert County do not want this in our Back Yard. Our air, water and our Beautiful Chesapeake Bay is at great risk. Believe me if you can’t take care of a simple little county like Calvert you will certainly not be able to take care of the Country as a President. So don’t count on winning, you will not have my vote and we will lobby you right out of the State.

  3. Well said, Ms. Sheeline. I voted for the Governor, too. Sad that he’s placed Calvert County residents in the same unenviable boat as citizens of western Maryland. We have watched our Governor go from inspiring conviction—that we will not frack the Marcellus in Maryland like it’s been done in Pennsylvania—to befriending ANGA and Dominion to fund his presidential ambitions.

    It has been an effective strategy for the gas industry to come to a community where it wishes to have its way and hypnotize local officials with promises of jobs and revenue to solve all their economic woes. Officials from county commissioners, legislators, MDE, PSC, FERC, our Governor, all the way up to our President seem to swallow such promises without the need to verify, and with little regard for the harm gas development will do to those in its path.

    Since the shale gas industry began targeting western and southern Maryland for development, it often seems the lives of us “locals” have little value to those who think we stand between them and the fortunes they hope to make. Governor O’Malley seems not to care that his legacy in Maryland will be vocal and unforgiving vilification—from the mountains to the sea—if he forsakes his responsibility to Marylanders to serve shale gas masters.

    Let’s hope he wakes up.