A Baltimore City Council committee voted unanimously Monday afternoon to confirm Faith Leach as city administrator, effectively rescinding their previous decision to reject Mayor Brandon Scott’s nominee.

The vote, a flex of power for both the Scott administration and the council, comes after senior Scott aides spent the weekend whipping committee members and brokering political favors. The Rules and Legislative Oversight committee originally voted against Leach at a contentious hearing Thursday night, where members praised her record as a public servant but complained that the city administrator’s office had yet to deliver the streamlining of basic services that the mayor promised.

“My focus is on getting the job done and moving quickly on all of the challenges we know this city has,” Leach said after the vote. “That is the job I’m planning on doing, starting today.”

A few hours after the committee vote, the entire council unanimously voted to approve Leach’s nomination at a routine meeting.

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“With her exceptional leadership skills and expertise, I am confident that she will be instrumental in propelling our City forward,” Scott said in a written statement.

Council Vice President Sharon Green Middleton, who previously voted against Leach, made the committee floor motion to confirm her. The Democrat called the weekend the most productive of Scott’s term thus far thanks to “collaborations, building relationships, all things we need to do to keep our city moving.”

The other committee members who previously voted against Leach — Eric Costello, Mark Conway and Isaac “Yitzy” Schleifer — each cited conversations with the acting city administrator, the mayor and his senior staff in their decisions to now vote in the administration’s favor.

Costello complained last week of combined salaries for the office’s five senior positions that total around $900,000, despite what he called a lack of results and unclear division of responsibility between the chief of staff and city administrator.

“I’m confident after conversations I’ve had over the weekend with the mayor directly that we can hopefully work through those concerns,” he said.

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Leach’s salary is $197,676. Her predecessor Chris Shorter was the second-highest paid city employee behind police chief Michael Harrison when he left the position, earning $255,000 last year.

A weekend that may tee up budget debate

On Friday, Scott gathered other members of his cabinet to deliver a brief but fierce public statement outside City Hall: Leach will be confirmed as city administrator, with the backing of City Council President Nick Mosby.

Mosby “assured me that we will work in partnership to make sure that Ms. Leach will be confirmed ... he agrees that she is a phenomenal public servant,” the mayor said.

Mosby diverged from Scott’s public comments after the vote on Monday, saying that the committee was never concerned about Leach’s qualifications but about the administration’s communication. Speaking to reporters, he pushed back against questions that likened the original vote to a message to the administration.

“It wasn’t about anything else other than ensuring that the second floor [the administration] took the appropriate process of engaging the council,” he said, adding that there’s been “a tremendous amount of times where the council has asked for specific information and not received it,” citing questions about Scott’s controversial conduit deal with the Baltimore Gas and Electric Company as “the latest and greatest like symbolic representation of that.”

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Scott said he viewed the council’s approval of Leach as a pivotal moment in forging a deeper partnership between his administration and the council.

“I am eager to see what we can achieve together and the positive impact we can make for Baltimore,” he said in a statement.

Over three-fourths of city residents voted in favor of a 2020 charter amendment — introduced by then-Council President Scott — that created the city administrator position, tasking them with running city operations. The same law says the council must approve the mayor’s pick for the position.

Leach has held the role in interim capacity since January, following the departure of inaugural office holder Chris Shorter, who left after less than two years on the job. When lobbying for the creation of the city administrator charter position, Scott said the office would allow the mayor to focus on creating and studying policy changes while someone else is tasked with streamlining agency performances. Critics say the office has failed to result in tangible improvements to city services, while supporters argue that the office has not had enough time to establish itself.

Though the position is exempt from electoral politics, it has not been sequestered from City Hall office politics.

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The city administrator is “probably the most important position in city government — many will argue maybe even more important than the mayor, because they are literally the one that is responsible for all city operations on a day-to-day basis,” Mosby said. “So there was certain information that the council committee wanted to know about the operations of the office.”

That information, he said, included more details on the differing responsibilities of the administrator, the mayor and the chief of staff: “Who should the council go to to get answers when they have concerns, when they have problems?”

Though the council president was reluctant to describe the committee’s original vote as a political message, he acknowledged a change to Baltimore’s strong mayor system that is due to take effect this year.

For decades, the chief executive has yielded broad financial power over the city through control over the annual budget and the supplementary spending board. This budget season, following a charter amendment overwhelmingly passed by Baltimore voters, the council will be granted the power to move money around the city budget — an upgrade to their current authority, which only allows them to make budget cuts.

“We’re changing and moving away from that [strong mayor system] control,” Mosby said.

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The new financial powers will surely change the relationship between officials, and this power play by the council — and the mayor’s firm response — lays the foundation for the budget season kicking off in about two months.

Leach, meanwhile, said she was prioritizing delivering services to residents, not political battles.

“In my opening remarks, I talked not just about the citizens of Baltimore but the 12,500 plus employees who work for the city. That is my focus,” she said.


Emily Sullivan covers Baltimore City Hall. She joined the Banner after three years at WYPR, where she won multiple awards for her radio stories on city politics and culture. She previously reported for NPR’s national airwaves, focusing on business news and breaking news.

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