Comptroller Peter Franchot ends decades-long career in public service


The soft yellow walls of Peter Francho’s office are bare, littered with dozens of photographs, certificates and nails and hooks that once hung plaques.

Now they’re all packed, filling four cardboard boxes stacked near the door. It’s a visual sign of a change in Annapolis’ leadership and of Franchot’s long career.

As auditor and chief tax collector for the state, Mr. Francot began with a stint in the Army and the Capitol, then the Maryland Legislature, his last job as an auditor, and a dozen careers in the public service. Completing a career that spans many years.

In the process, Franchot gained both allies and foes. He has done everything from blaming the Baltimore-area school system for its slow pace in installing air conditioners to running television commercials that skewer General Assembly leaders as machine politicians that produce automated legislators. It has taken on a cause that has frustrated Democratic leaders. He has always claimed to be an independent voice who is not afraid to go his own way.

Franchot didn’t want it all to end here. He thought he could use his experience and independence to become the next governor. But he won his third of his ten candidates in the Democratic ballot in last year’s primary, ending his era in politics.

On Monday, Francho’s successor, Democrat Brooke Learman, will take office, and Francho, 75, will officially retire.

He plans to spend more time with his grandchildren and travel with his wife, Ann Ma. This includes a bicycle tour in Holland that his wife booked as a consolation for the governor’s loss.

The outgoing commissioner recently met with the Baltimore Banner to reflect on his career following the final meeting of the Public Works Commission, the powerful commission that approves state contracts and often releases news. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

The Banner: You had the last meeting of the Public Works Board. You spent 16 years as auditor and 20 years in the House, and now it’s kind of a farewell tour.

Franshaw: While working.

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I think it was the 355th Public Works Board. Each conference, every two weeks, we spend an average of $440 million in taxpayer money. No other state has a public works commission. We are lucky and blessed to have it in Maryland.

We often hear the argument “why spend money this way”. There is transparency there.

yes. And guess what? The press is there. And transparency is gained and overlooked.

When I was first elected, we had pre-meetings of the Governor and the Treasurer. I went to his office. Basically, has anyone complained about anything? But there was an understanding that after we left the office, no one complained.

We go to the back room and think that everything will be resolved to some extent. And then I went out and met ordinary people. And it wasn’t transparent.

I changed it because after repeating a few things I said, “No, I’m not going anymore.”

Looking back on your time in Congress in 1987, what would you say to young Congressman Peter Francho? What advice would you give to your former self?

I came out of the public interest movement so I was very independent. For many years I have been against the Vietnam War and against the nuclear issue with Ralph Nader and the Coalition of Concerned Scientists.

My entire career has been built around policy issues appealing to state legislatures and, ultimately, to Congress. [to address]I was the one who was there to represent the issues that I feel deeply about. And I often got mad at Democrats, just as I did when I was a Republican.

I could easily pick up issues like slot machines and gambling as examples. Also, as an auditor now, he supports the craft beer industry for distributors. I didn’t mind the kind of criticism I received from my own party for disrupting their relationship.

Are there any specific laws or things you did during your time in Congress that you are proud of looking back on?

I was chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee, where I had a great deal of power over many state agencies, and it was very effective.

I began to feel confident as far as being against gambling as a source of income.

Not only that, but there are all sorts of social problems associated with gambling. I’m sure this is what we’re going to see as sports gambling explodes. In times of recession, we advertise that people are developing common gambling addictions.

Gambling has continued to expand over the years, with the state relying on gambling for Maryland’s future fund blueprints and other needs.

So just under the stone is a tremendous amount of suffering and that’s why I was against increasing funding from lottery ads…basically gambling addiction is stronger than heroin addiction As such, the social losses we have in pursuing the desired returns are somewhat neglected.

Let’s talk about your years as an auditor. You came to this office after a pretty dramatic election, beating out William Donald Shaffer and Janet Owens. At a victory night party on election night, you told your supporters that you would consider each decision carefully, but also be progressive.

Here are the words you said at that party. Those are Maryland values. ”

Do you think you’ve delivered on your promise to be progressive and pragmatic for the state budget?

yes. Voted in 355 meetings [on] State spending exceeds $400 million. …there must be transparency and accountability, and the country’s spending must be checked and balanced.

I don’t remember the exact quote, but it is very accurate and has guided me through my 16 years as an auditor.

The point here is that being constantly relied upon by powerful special interest and legislative leaders and fearing that someone will tell them they can’t do something is not going to be effective for the masses. You can’t be an advocate. Additionally, anything we do in response to the fact that you are limiting our spending will result in you or your agency being penalized. It has prospered under my leadership.

In addition to running regulatory agencies and being the keeper of finances, you are unabashedly tackling the issues that matter to you. For example, school starts after Labor Day, school air conditioning issues, advocating for the craft beer industry.

You are being criticized for being too far removed from the core mission of this office. What is your reaction to criticism of your campaign?

They are wonderful people and many of them are my friends. I think everything is allowed now.

But that’s exactly what I mean. It’s that we need more honest checks and balances, people independent of party control, unbridled, free from bosses, free from scandals.

But mostly, it’s my ability to stand up for leadership in my own party.

And my only suggestion to everyone is to be independent. Yes, you can be proud of your party and your principles, but you are not a robot. My critics can say there is too much friction. say.

In your 16 years as an auditor, where do you think you’ve left your mark the most? Will people turn around and say, ‘Because the Comptroller Franchot did that’?

Independent checks and balances that put Maryland before the party. I think that was made directly clear by my opposition to gambling as a source of state income, just as it’s not stable enough.

You’re looking back on your career and finishing this chapter of public service, but it wasn’t what you wanted. I was hoping. How is it going with absorbing that loss and figuring out what you’re going to do next?

It was great. Mainly because her wife was such a wonderful person to me.

And it has opened up the possibility of several years where I can focus on the few issues I really care about in a more relaxed way. Also, I am planning a vacation after my term ends.

Do you think you will miss your staff? Yes, I miss the staff. And hold the door and say, “Mr. Treasurer.” Yes, I think I’ll miss it. Missing a trooper to take you by car? of course. Everyone will want to drive. But I must understand that it wasn’t always the case that I was happily driven to the next meeting.

I’m glad I became an accountant. i love my job But it’s nice to be able to look back and say ‘well done’. We have taken our agency to a new level. I am proud of it. And happy despite the transition.

Losing an election isn’t fun, but many people say it’s really rewarding, especially running for governor.

I loved the experience of running for governor. I mean, a lot of people treated me as a candidate for governor. It didn’t work. I didn’t have enough votes. that’s ok. Life moves on and I have other priorities.

Maryland gubernatorial candidate Peter Franchot poses for a photo with supporters at a preliminary Night Watchman party on July 19, 2022 in Bowie, Maryland. Peter Franchot is running against Wes Moore and Tom Perez in the Democratic primary for governor.

What are you most missing? Is there anything I should miss about being an elected official?

I’m not going to miss having to get “on” with people in an inauthentic way. okay, that’s part of the politics too. You have to be high-energy and high-decibel, kind of super-energy.

Now I don’t have to have that kind of charisma. I think I can be a quieter charisma and a more content person.

One last question, and it’s very important. This office: “COMP-troller” or “CON-troller”?

COMP trawler. Yes, it’s the French version. i know what i’m talking about It’s a controller.

Second, fill in proof that you know what I’m talking about. The only thing that is silent about me is the “T” at the end of my name.

pamela.wood@thebaltimorebanner.com





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