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The case against Kopp

Maryland Treasurer Nancy Kopp. (file)

Maryland Treasurer Nancy Kopp. (file)

Some Democrats in the General Assembly are bandying about the idea of dumping Nancy Kopp as state treasurer. The root of their disaffection stems from Kopp’s performance on the three-person Board of Public Works, on which she serves along with Gov. Larry Hogan and Comptroller Peter Franchot.

It seems, according to a “report” on split votes by the board, that Kopp rarely disagrees with Hogan.

We’ll pause to let that sink in and will return to it in a moment.

The duties of the Board of Public Works derive from the state Constitution and from what has been delegated to the panel by the General Assembly. Essentially, the board is empowered to be the state’s fiscal watchdog. It reviews and approves, or rejects, hundreds of contracts and state expenditures – general obligation bonds, capital improvements, the lease or sale of state-owned property, procurement contracts and the like. It also has the authority to debar vendors and to oversee the overall integrity of the procurement process.

Of late the board’s three members, in varying degrees, have used it as a bully pulpit for a number of issues – the pace of installation of air conditioning in Baltimore city and Baltimore County schools; the use of out-of-state facilities to house children in need of social services; and whether other states are failing to do their part to ease sediment washing from the Susquehanna River into the Chesapeake Bay. Kopp has watched most of this from the sidelines.

Kopp was first elected by Maryland legislators to be state treasurer in 2002. The job comes up for a vote next year. Besides sitting on the BPW, the treasurer participates in a number of other boards and agencies – including as chair of the state’s pension system — manages the state treasurer’s office and deals with financial rating agencies and investment banks. Prior to becoming treasurer, Kopp was a member of the House of Delegates for 27 years, representing Bethesda.

It would seem to us that any grievances against Kopp, if they are to be taken seriously, would have to do with how effectively she has performed the duties of her office. Has she failed to be a diligent watchdog over the state’s investments? Not shown up for meetings of the Maryland Health and Higher Education Financing Authority? Failed to read or to understand the contract proposals presented to the BPW and on which she votes? Ignored evidence of bid-rigging or other shady procurement practices?

Agreeing, or disagreeing, with the Republican governor doesn’t appear to be among these duties. Grandstanding, picking partisan fights, cooking up hot-button issues – those don’t appear to be among them, either.

Kopp is not entitled to be treasurer for life. If lawmakers believe other candidates would do a more effective job in performing the treasurer’s duties, by all means put them forth. But to boot Kopp out of this job on the grounds that she hasn’t aggressively taken on the governor does a disservice to her. It does an even greater disservice to Maryland taxpayers, who could be excused for wondering whether they should do some job replacing of their own when the legislative elections roll around.