Baltimore, MD – Six months after the environmental advocacy group Food & Water Watch filed a Maryland Public Information Act (MPIA) request to Baltimore City about communication between Mayor Pugh and the privatization firm Suez, the group received a response.
According to the emails received from the city, last fall, an attorney and lobbyist for Suez wrote an analysis attempting to tear down Baltimore City’s current internal policy of not meeting with potential vendors before an official solicitation has been issued. A lawyer with the law firm Semmes, who is lobbying on behalf of Suez, wrote the memo for Peter Hammen, Mayor Pugh’s Chief of Operations, to respond to “feedback from city procurement officials” that it would not meet with a potential vendor, strongly suggesting that city procurement officials had refused to meet with Suez.
The lobbyist’s memo analyzed why such a meeting would not be barred by the Baltimore City Code. Therefore, the memo argued that city procurement officials should meet with “all potential vendors,” which would include its client, Suez. Following the receipt of this memo, it appears that Hammen then encouraged the city’s chief procurement officer to meet with this Suez lobbyist.
“The fact that Suez believes because the law does not bar the city from privately meeting with potential venders, they must do so, is nonsensical,” said Zach Corrigan, Senior Staff Attorney at Food & Water Watch. “This is nothing more than a cheap attempt to brow-beat the city into meeting with them to get a leg up towards privatization. Privatizing the water system in Baltimore would be a potentially dangerous and irresponsible move that would threaten access to safe and affordable water. It makes total sense that a city would choose not to be solicited ahead of time to keep its powder dry.”
The MPIA response also revealed that Suez has been meeting with the city since before 2013 having drafted a preliminary analysis with then-Director of the Department of Public Works Al Foxx. Suez first met with Mayor Pugh in January 2017 shortly after she took office. Hammen has met with Suez representatives as recently as May 2018.