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Baltimore board approves millions with firm connected to Pugh and Healthy Holly

Posted at 3:47 PM, Dec 11, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-11 19:10:09-05

BALTIMORE (WMAR) — This week’s Baltimore City Board of Estimates agenda consists of about 100 pages.

Among the long list is contracts, grants, and lease agreements to vote on.

But there’s one particular purchase item which some say highlights the reason why the city needs to change the way it does business.

According to the Grant Capital Management website, it provides lease financing for public sector clients. A client list which includes Baltimore City along with a lease agreement to get new public safety radios for Baltimore Police, Fire, Transportation, and Public Works.

"It will improve our communications within the department to reduce the cost of maintaining these very old radios," says Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison.

Those new Motorola radios will cost more than $18 million.

To help pay for it, the spending board approved a $13 million dollar lease agreement at Wednesday's Board of Estimates meeting and paying J.P. Grant's company a percentage as the middleman to finance those radios.

"They line up the financing, we obtain the best favorable interest rates at the time, the lowest rates available, and then we execute the deal," said City Finance Director Henry Raymond

The name J.P. Grant may sound familiar. His company has been identified as one of the entities to which former Mayor Catherine Pugh sold her Healthy Holly books. The controversial book deals caused Pugh to plead guilty to four counts of Federal conspiracy and tax evasion.

J.P. Grant’s connection to Pugh has two mayoral candidates including former Maryland Deputy Attorney General Thiru Vignarajah and Baltimore City Council President Brandon Scott, not only questioning Grant's dealings with Baltimore City, but how the City does business.

"The people of Baltimore should know where their money is going, the people of Baltimore should know what work is being done in City Hall," said Vignarajah.

"The focus is on right now Mr. Grant, but we have to understand there's much more to this, we have to rebuild a system from top to bottom that the citizens can trust," Scott said.

WMAR 2- News has reached out to J.P. Grant for his reaction to those criticizing his various leasing contracts with Baltimore City but haven’t heard back as of yet.

Meanwhile, City Solicitor Andre Davis says he’s not concerned.

"There are certain allegations out there, that we will be paying very close attention to. The investigation is continuing, but at this point they're just allegations, and i don't think the Mayor, or the Council want to run city business on the basis of allegations."

While Davis may not be concerned, Baltimore City's Fraternal Order of Police blasted him on twitter essentially calling him a hypocrite and calling for his removal.

"City Solicitor Davis has police officers indefinitely suspended for "just allegations". But when you're an associate of he and ex-Mayor Pugh, "just allegations" don't keep you from receiving multi-million dollar deals with the City. Andre Davis needs to go. Where's the integrity?," the FOP tweeted.

Yet if you look at the Board of Estimates agenda item for the police radios, there’s no direct mention of J.P. Grant’s name or his company, Grant Capital Management.

"Every single line item ought to show who's getting the money, who's going to benefit, from each and every one of those deals," said Vignarajah.

And while the board approved the lease agreement with Grant Capital, the Brandon Scott and Comptroller Joan Pratt abstained from the vote.

"The citizens deserve the right to know that these contracts are being handed out in a legal fashion, that's why i abstained from the vote, because i stand by my call to have every contract investigated," Scott said.

Vignarajah is already calling for the contract with Grant Capital to be terminated.

And should the Board of Estimates later agree, the City Solicitor points out contracts are made to be broken, if the need arises.

"The finance director knows, we have remedies available to us, to disbar, or terminate contracts that are the product of illegality," said Davis.