The head of Baltimore’s economic development entity said claims by a former mayor that the quasi-public organization is sitting on $30 million in funds it should be lending are untrue.
During the Baltimore Development Corp.’s board meeting Thursday, Christy Wyskiel, a board member from Johns Hopkins University, asked about claims made by former Mayor Sheila Dixon during a candidates’ forum sponsored by Open Society Institute-Baltimore on Feb. 5 that the organization is hoarding funds in its micro-lending fund.
“I don’t know where that comes from. It’s completely un-factual,” said Colin Tarbert, president and CEO of the BDC.
A recently completed audit of the organization, which was released after the board meeting, shows BDC currently has total assets of more than $26.9 million and roughly $2.98 million in loan funds.
There’s currently about $380,000, Tarbert said, in the agency’s micro-lending pool. BDC uses those funds to provide loans generally ranging from $5,000 to $30,000, he said. Businesses primarily use the credit to purchase new equipment.
“A few big loans and we won’t have any more loan funds,” Tarbert told board members.
Dixon made her claims in response to a question asked by the forum’s moderator about what she would do as mayor to expand investment into downtrodden neighborhoods. The former mayor started by saying she would use incentives to encourage small developers to make investments in communities suffering disinvestment before pivoting to BDC.
“Right now BDC, the Baltimore Development Corporation, has $30 million in micro-lending money that has not been given out into one small company. I would take that $30 million out of Baltimore Development Corporation and work with small businesses to enhance them to grow or start their business,” Dixon said.
Dixon’s campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story. In two other candidates forums available for review online the former mayor did not repeat the claim.
The first African-American woman elected city council president and the first woman elected mayor of Baltimore, Dixon resigned in early 2010 as part of a plea deal after she admitted guilt to a perjury charge and was previously convicted of a misdemeanor embezzlement charge.
After leaving office Dixon worked as marketing director for the Maryland Minority Contractors Association, which advocates for those types of companies to receive more opportunities and access to public contracts.
Dixon in 2016 ran to regain her old job. She lost the Democratic mayoral primary to former Mayor Catherine Pugh by about 2,400 votes. Pugh resigned from office last year during a federal investigation of her self-dealing “Healthy Holly” scandal and subsequently pleaded guilty to four federal charges.
Dixon is once again running for mayor in a crowded Democratic primary field that includes current Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young, City Council President Brandon Scott, state Sen. Mary Washington, attorney Thiru Vignarajah, and Mary Miller, who served in former President Barack Obama’s administration.