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Md. Legislative Black Caucus has questions about Kopp’s record

But Senate President Miller comes out strongly in her support

One of the legislature’s largest caucuses is raising questions about Treasurer Nancy Kopp and her last four years on the Board of Public Works.

The 56-member Legislative Black Caucus met Friday afternoon in an emergency closed-door session to discuss Kopp, according to sources familiar with the discussions. The meeting comes as the legislature prepares to appoint a treasurer for the next four years, whether it be the incumbent or another as yet unannounced candidate.

Del. Darryl Barnes, D-Prince George’s and chair of the Legislative Black Caucus, said he would neither confirm nor deny the discussion about Kopp, saying the Friday was a closed-door session and included “a multitude of things being discussed that (afternoon). I do believe that at the right time there will be a discussion to be had with regards to the treasurer position.”

Barnes, however, did acknowledge that the caucus is taking an interest in the next election for treasurer.

Del. Darryl Barnes, D-Prince George's County and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

Del. Darryl Barnes, D-Prince George’s and chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus. (The Daily Record / Bryan P. Sears)

“I think it’s just like any position that is a statewide elected position,” said Barnes. “It is our duty to look at all the things to be considered when taking that position. I think the black caucus will do our due diligence in vetting not only Nancy Kopp but any other person who wants to run for that position. I think the black caucus is looking at the playing field to see who may submit an application for that position then once that happens we will do our part to ensure our voices and our concerns will be heard and met.”

The 188-member legislature appoints the treasurer to a four-year term. Mostly this vote is decided by House Democrats, because there are more members in that chamber than in the Senate.

The Legislative Black Caucus holds 45 of the 99 Democratic seats in the House and another 11 in the Senate.

Some Democrats over the last four years have expressed concerns that Kopp was too timid in pushing back against Republican Gov. Larry Hogan and Democratic Comptroller Peter Franchot during Board of Public Works meetings. Some have expressed a desire for a treasurer and board member who will throw a sharp elbow in defense of Democratic legislative efforts and positions.

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. has at times questioned Kopp’s quiet nature on the board. On Monday night, he reversed those statements.

“Clearly I prefer a loud voice,” said Miller. “I like somebody with (Kopp’s) knowledge being like (Supreme Court Justice) Ruth Bader Ginsburg, saying, ‘I dissent!’ You know, that’s what I’d like, but that’s not her personality, and she’s a great treasurer.”

Miller said in no uncertain terms that Kopp was the best person for the position.

“You don’t pick a treasurer because they are white or black or Latino,” said Miller. “It’s the best person for the job. For years it was always a banker from Baltimore City. We’re making progress. It should be the very best person. If they come up with a better person then let them make their case, but it should be based on who the best person for the job.”

“I’m certainly going to vote for her,” said Miller.

Late last summer, Del. Talmadge Branch, D-Baltimore City, asked the staff for the Board of Public Works for a voting record highlighting all split votes over the first three years of the last term.

“I’d like to see more independence, more so from the treasurer, because she votes, the percentage she votes with the other party,” said Branch, in an interview last August. “It doesn’t seem to me that she votes in the interest of her party at all times.”

Branch has served on three legislative committees that make recommendations on the appointment of the treasurer.

Last year, Branch said he asked for the report while not looking for anything specific but said he later took an interest in how Kopp voted.

“It’s just that I wanted to see, with the new term coming up, with us voting for that seat (treasurer), I wanted to make sure her voting was in line with what I like,” said Branch said in August. “In some ways they were, and in some things they weren’t.”

He declined to elaborate at the time.

The 12-page report showed Franchot, who is frequently considered to be a Hogan ally on the panel, voted no 28 times with no abstentions on matters on which Hogan voted yes. Kopp voted no in three instances and abstained in three more votes on items that had been supported by Hogan.

Branch said the document was proof that Kopp “votes lockstep — about 85 percent of the time — with the governor.”

In a brief interview Friday, Branch said he had not provided a copy of the report to the black caucus, but he called it “a public record anyone can get” and referred questions to Barnes.

Over the last year, Kopp has become more vocal but said last August she does not take partisan positions in her votes on the board.

“I don’t mind speaking up when I think there is a problem or an issue,” said Kopp. “My general attitude is that things tend to work better when you work together than to make a spectacle.”

Kopp, who served 27 years in the House as a delegate from Montgomery County, has held the job since 2002. Kopp so far as expressed an interest in keeping the job.

Barnes, the leader of the black caucus, said he has not spoken to Kopp about any concerns and wasn’t sure he would invite her to speak to the group.

“As of right now, it’s not on my agenda,” said Barnes.

 


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