My Character

Don't believe the slippery mailings coming from my opposition.

Bob Flanagan has over a quarter of a century of public service to his country as a veteran of U.S. Navy, to his county as a Human Rights Commissioner and as a Delegate and Secretary of Transportation. 

Here's the real story:

As Secretary of Transportation, Bob Flanagan took on vested interests in two troubled agencies.  He was determined to fix two of the six agencies under his department, one that was rife with lavish entertainment expenses and perks and the other that was notoriously inefficient and provided substandard service.
Bob Flanagan was unflinching in the face of critics with vested interests in these two dysfunctional agencies and fixed serious problems that had been festering for decades. 
As your Delegate, Bob Flanagan will do it again.

This election is a choice between someone who will stand up to vested interest groups that care nothing about you and my opposition who wants to get in the back room with the political bosses and continue the status quo.

Two prominent leaders in Annapolis have vouched for my character, their quotes are sourced below, as are the articles that my opposition has distorted.


Bob is “very trustworthy. His word is good.”

-Del. Maggie McIntosh (Democrat) Chair, House Environmental Matters Committee


“You want to surround yourself with quality people. He’s an extraordinarily smart, honest, competent person.”

-Comptroller Peter Franchot (Democrat) 



Questions surround nominee Flanagan ; Ehrlich's pick for head of transportation praised, criticized by observers
[FINAL Edition]

The Sun - Baltimore, Md.

Stephen Kiehl

Feb. 23, 2003 

Del. Robert L. Flanagan knows a thing or two about alternative means of transportation. He rode the bus to Gonzaga High School in Washington. He took the train around Boston while studying at Harvard. Then, for a time, he rode a nuclear submarine in the Pacific.

But for most of his adult life, Flanagan has driven from his suburban home to his office in a car by himself. The man who would be state transportation secretary knows a thing or two, then, about traffic and congestion and what nags commuters.

"We have to address problems raised by traffic congestion and we have to provide a workable mass transit system in Baltimore," said Flanagan, whose confirmation hearing is tomorrow.

If confirmed, he is expected to play a key role in shaping how people get around in Maryland. He will be a top adviser to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., whose transportation plans remain vague. With lean years ahead, he and his administration face some hard choices - - build new roads or lay new rail, add lanes to highways or add buses to city streets.

So far, Ehrlich and Flanagan have made only one promise to commuters -- to build the Intercounty Connector highway in Montgomery County. Everything else is on the table.

So is Flanagan a roads guy or is he a rail guy?

"The jury is still out," said Dan Pontious, director of the Baltimore Regional Partnership and a leading proponent of a subway and light rail plan that would create six interwoven transit lines in the city and its suburbs.

Ehrlich and Flanagan, if confirmed, must decide by mid-March whether to seek federal money for the rail plan. Whether they fight for that money will be seen as an indicator of how mass transit will fare under the new leadership in Annapolis.

Pontious and others are alarmed by Flanagan's frequent talk about studying the costs of mass transit -- and of meeting the state requirement that 40 percent of operating costs come from passenger fares. The Maryland Tran- sit Administration now collects 35 percent of operating costs from fares.

"We have to be thoughtful and studied about the development of mass transportation," Flanagan said. "How do we get the most bang for our buck is really what we need to look at."

Del. Elizabeth Bobo, a former Howard County executive who served with Flanagan in the General Assembly, said she's frustrated by those who want to put more money into roads because transit is a money-loser.

"Of course mass transit loses money," said Bobo, a Democrat, before sounding a warning about Flanagan. "For people in Maryland who are interested in mass transit programs, his priorities to that extent will not be in line with theirs or with mine."

Flanagan, 57, was a frequent critic of former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, as well as a thorn in the side of the Democratic leadership in the legislature. It was Flanagan, for instance, who asked the state prosecutor to investigate the conduct of Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller during last year's state redistricting battles.

Now it is Miller's Senate that will hold tomorrow's confirmation hearing for Flanagan. When Flanagan's name was floated for the job last month, Miller told reporters that the governor "can do better" and called Flanagan "divisive, mean-spirited and also not qualified."

In an interview last week, Miller said he does not hold any grudges. And after speaking with Flanagan and those he's worked with in the Assembly, Miller said he plans to vote for his confirmation.

"A number of people said that since he lost the mantle of minority whip [in 2001], he turned into a halfway-normal sort of person," Miller said. "Although you can certainly find someone who's more qualified, who's to say the governor is going to appoint such a person?"

Other lawmakers said that with Miller on board, nothing more should stand in Flanagan's way. Still, Flanagan is concerned enough about whether he'll be confirmed that he has not yet resigned his position in the House of Delegates, where he has represented Ellicott City since 1987.

He has earned a reputation as sharp-tongued and sharp-witted, as a hard worker who would skip drinks with colleagues to pore over budget documents, as a fiscal conservative but a social moderate. He voted for Glendening's gay-rights bill in 2001 and co-sponsored a law against race-based traffic stops.

"I think he represents the best of what the Republican Party can be," said his brother, Ed Flanagan, a liberal Democrat who served four terms as Vermont's state auditor. Robert Flanagan helped him in his campaigns, doing everything from plotting strategy to licking stamps.

Some liberal Democrats in Maryland share his brother's favorable view. Del. Peter Franchot, who has sparred with Flanagan on the House Appropriations Committee, said the governor made a good choice.

"You want to surround yourself with quality people. You want to avoid mediocrity, and that's what the governor's done in selecting Bob Flanagan," Franchot said. "He's an extraordinarily smart, honest, competent person."

Some lawmakers and transportation department employees have raised concerns about Flanagan's lack of experience in the field. He is a lawyer who served several years on transportation subcommittees in the House but more recently has focused on the budget and health care. The concern is compounded by the expectation that Flanagan will choose Trent Kittleman, also a lawyer with little transportation experience, as his deputy.

"He was usually the lead attack dog against our former governor," said Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, a Prince George's Democrat. "That's not to say he's not a real bright guy. It's also reserving judgment in terms of his expertise in transportation."

Flanagan grew up in Washington; his father was an aide to Vermont Sen. George Aiken. He worked construction jobs to help pay his tuition at Gonzaga High, where he was quarterback and captain of the football team and a less successful member of the basketball team. Later, he was an All-New England offensive guard at Harvard.

"He wasn't the biggest, and he wasn't the strongest but he has an incredible work ethic," Ed Flanagan said. It doesn't matter, he said, that his brother has not worked in transportation. He pointed to Flanagan's three years in the Navy, in which he operated the nuclear reactors on the USS Patrick Henry.

"He mastered the science of nuclear submarines pretty quickly, and he didn't have any particular background in that," Ed Flanagan said.

The man who likely will be Maryland's next transportation secretary says he will immerse himself in the $3 billion-a-year department, and last weekend's snowstorm was a crash course. He was on the airfield at Baltimore-Washington International Airport, on the light rail tracks along Howard Street and on state highways in a four-wheel-drive Chevrolet Blazer -- highways that may expand under his watch.

"I don't want to aggravate uncontrolled growth," Flanagan said, "but I also know that in many instances, road improvements can relieve congestion and are very important in improving the lives of our citizens."


Photo(s); Caption: 1. Del. Robert L. Flanagan, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s nominee for transportation secretary, speaks with his daughter Kate as her friends Tristan Kraft and Steve Blaes look on. 2. Del. Robert L. Flanagan has a reputation as a sharp-witted -- and sharp-tongued -- legislator, but some observers say he lacks experience for the job of secretary of transportation.; Credit: KIM HAIRSTON : SUN STAFF PHOTOS




[FINAL Edition]

The Sun - Baltimore, Md. 

Dresser, Michael

Nov 13, 2006 

Ed Cohen's got a long, scraggly beard and a frayed suit jacket that appears to be about 40 years old. He's the type of guy a security guard might shoo away if he got too close to a high- ranking state official.

One of my most vivid memories of covering Robert L. Flanagan as state transportation secretary is watching him engage in a prolonged and mutually respectful policy discussion with Cohen in the halls of Annapolis.

Cohen, a mass transit advocate, is frequently on the opposite side from Flanagan on vital issues. But the president of the Transit Riders Action Council of Metropolitan Baltimore said he'll miss the soon-to-be-ex transportation secretary.

"Flanagan would listen to anybody. Flanagan's door was wide open," Cohen said.

Whatever other judgments may be rendered on Flanagan's four-year tenure under Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., it is hard to deny that he was accessible, passionate and hardworking. The former Howard County delegate might have been stubborn and fiercely partisan, but he kept an open mind and would correct mistakes - even if he didn't quite admit them. In an otherwise thin-skinned administration, he kept his tough hide and his sense of humor.

While Flanagan came into office with a reputation as a pour-the- asphalt guy from the Republican suburbs, he took an intense interest in the problems of the Maryland Transit Administration.

"He learned a lot about transit and spent more time on it than anything else, trying to make it work right," Cohen said.
Cohen, a city resident and registered Democrat, gives Flanagan credit for making substantial improvements in some aspects of MTA service.

"The bus fleet has been greatly upgraded in quality. The buses they've bought were the best buses we've ever gotten," said Cohen, who is retired. He also gives Flanagan credit for introducing all- day limited east-west bus service on the U.S. 40 line.

Those are among several areas Flanagan and the Ehrlich administration can legitimately claim to have changed mass transit in Maryland for the better. Another big one was the improvement in the Mobility service for the disabled, where after a rough start the MTA straightened out problems and settled a lawsuit brought by an advocacy group. It was a big victory on behalf of a vulnerable population.

Flanagan's record on transit issues was far from trouble-free. He took on a big challenge - one even his critics acknowledged was long overdue - when he launched a comprehensive restructuring of Baltimore area bus routes.

The transportation chief has consistently maintained that the initiative improved bus service. Cohen - along with many other MTA riders - disagrees. "They never quite got it right," Cohen said.

The initiative was snake-bit from the start. When the MTA first brought a restructuring plan to a public hearing, it included such a draconian list of cuts and reroutings that the community was incensed. The MTA backed off that plan, but the impression that the prime goal of the initiative was to cut costs could not be erased.

To his credit, Flanagan did not distance himself from the consequences of his actions. When a Sun reporter invited him to join in a tour of city bus routes after the first round of changes, Flanagan accepted.

It was a gutsy move because there was no way to script what people would say. Dissatisfied MTA riders gave him an earful but openly admired his willingness to listen.

Cohen is looking forward to some of the changes Gov.-elect Martin O'Malley promised in his campaign - the mayor's openness to studying an east-west Red Line subway through Baltimore. Flanagan, whom Cohen described as "predisposed to bus solutions," has firmly ruled out heavy rail as too costly to receive federal funding.

Still, Cohen is hoping O'Malley chooses a transportation secretary who is as involved as Flanagan.
"He was a very, very hands-on secretary in terms of transit," said Cohen. "The reason he got better was because his door was open. ... He was willing to

discuss any issue with anybody. That really was a quality that served him well and the governor well."

Now Cohen has some advice for O'Malley. As poorly as the first phase of the bus route restructuring went, Cohen said the changes planned for the second phase early next year are good. He's hoping the new administration will resist any inclination to delay the previous regime's handiwork.

"The genuine improvements of this coming phase should not be held hostage to the failures of the initial phase," Cohen said. 


Public battles come to an end on a soft note

[FINAL Edition]

The Sun - Baltimore, Md. 

Michael Dresser

Mar 9, 2006 

One of the longest-running public battles in Annapolis ended yesterday with the political equivalent of a wet, sloppy kiss.

Del. Peter Franchot, the hyper-partisan Democrat who chairs the House subcommittee that oversees the state transportation budget, has spent much of the past four years needling, goading and slow- roasting Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan at budget hearings. Flanagan, no slouch as a Republican attack dog, generally has responded with a vigorous and equally articulate defense of the Ehrlich administration.

But when Flanagan came before the panel yesterday for his last budget hearing before Franchot, the chairman was throwing bouquets.

"Jousting is the state sport and there are a lot of skeptics who think that nobody here jousts," said Franchot, who is leaving the legislature to run for comptroller. "Obviously they did not come to this subcommittee." Franchot went on to praise Flanagan for his "selfless dedication to public service" and to profess deep respect for his abilities. "Despite my opinion of the Ehrlich administration, they are lucky to have you as secretary of transportation," the Montgomery County lawmaker said.

Flanagan responded in kind, recalling that he and Franchot served 16 years together in the House. "People who would watch us from afar don't appreciate the fact we're good friends," said Flanagan, telling Franchot he respects his advocacy "no matter how misguided you might be."

After the outpouring of goodwill, the battle moved behind closed doors, where Franchot is preparing to do a number on his buddy's budget. 


Veteran fighter is ready for next battle ; Flanagan: The state's transportation chief is used to serving as a political lightning rod.; GENERAL ASSEMBLY
[FINAL Edition]

The Sun - Baltimore, Md. 

Dresser, Michael

Mar 9, 2005

If Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. wanted a transportation secretary who would lie low and steer clear of the political fray, he certainly would have found someone other than Robert L. Flanagan.

For 16 years as a Republican delegate in Annapolis, Flanagan earned a reputation as a partisan pit bull with an unmatched gift for savaging Maryland's ruling Democrats.

But now Flanagan finds himself on the defensive over the departure of the top official at the port of Baltimore - with business executives joining Democrats in questioning Flanagan's performance in office.

He will have opportunities to answer his critics today and tomorrow as he appears before committees in the Senate and House of Delegates to brief legislators on the state of the port.

If past appearances are any indicator, Flanagan will face hostile questioning. But his years in Annapolis have given the 59-year-old former Navy submarine officer a thick skin.

"I don't need sympathy. I've got a great job. This is a great opportunity to serve," he says. "As Governor Ehrlich said, `Bob, you asked for this job.'"

The Harvard-educated Flanagan, who has a law degree from Cornell, has been at the center of one controversy after another since taking office two years ago.

He quickly offended urban interests by suggesting the state was spending too much on mass transit. Environmentalists accused him of cutting corners to build the proposed Intercounty Connector highway. He decided to shut down several lanes of the Bay Bridge to fix botched concrete work, a move that in the short term resulted in huge backups.

But more than any other issue, Flanagan's role in pushing out Maryland Port Administration chief James White has made him the target of the type of attacks he used to level at former Gov. Parris N. Glendening. White, who had led the port through six years of growing prosperity, resigned but said he believed he had failed to win Flanagan's respect.

Flanagan's critics accuse him of running his department in a ruthlessly partisan manner - firing career employees at the port and other offices to create openings for people with scanty credentials. No other member of the Ehrlich Cabinet has come under such withering criticism.

"He's caused a brain drain that will take years, if not decades, to reverse," said Del. Peter Franchot, who has called for Flanagan's resignation. "Ultimately, his legacy will be he did a tremendous disservice to the Maryland Department of Transportation."

A longtime ally of Ehrlich's, Flanagan was one of the first in line for a plum position after the 2002 election. Like Ehrlich, he entered the House of Delegates in 1987 and became known as a fierce partisan who cultivated friendships across party lines when the day's battles were over. On display in Flanagan's office is a photo taken at a football game of him with fellow Annapolis freshmen Ehrlich and Michael E. Busch - now the Democratic House speaker.

The job Flanagan requested is challenging. The transportation secretary earns $147,647 a year for managing a department with 9,250 employees and an annual budget of $3.9 billion. He oversees five important agencies, some bigger than Cabinet departments.

Flanagan has also been charged with fulfilling one of Ehrlich's most prominent campaign promises: to build the ICC. The governor wants to break ground next year on the proposed Laurel-to-Rockville highway, which has been stalled by environmental concerns for decades. Ehrlich has made it clear that he expects Flanagan to obtain the necessary approvals and to protect the project from court challenges.

Mixed reviews
The governor has lavished public praise on Flanagan, but lawmakers give him mixed reviews.

Republicans say Flanagan has made a skillful transformation from legislator to administrator. They give him much of the credit for winning passage of Ehrlich's transportation revenue package last year - a feat that required him to persuade reluctant Republicans to raise vehicle registration fees.

Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, who holds Flanagan's old job as House minority whip, said Flanagan worked tirelessly to win votes for the package, which passed the House with one vote to spare. "He deserves a great deal of credit for getting that through," O'Donnell said.

To win the House vote, Flanagan had to strike a deal with the all- Democratic Baltimore delegation, represented by Del. Maggie L. McIntosh. Flanagan, previously known as a critic of mass transit programs, agreed to fully fund planning of a proposed east-west rail or bus line through Baltimore.

"He's very trustworthy. His word is good," McIntosh said. But like other Democrats, she expressed concern about the quality of the administration's appointments at the port and Baltimore-Washington International Airport. "We're going to watch carefully to see that the port and airport aren't politicized," McIntosh said.

Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, chairman of the Finance Committee, said Flanagan did a "brilliant" job on the revenue bill. But he faults the secretary publicly rebuking lawmakers who opposed the package.

"As a secretary, you can't turn and personally attack a legislator," Middleton said. He noted that Flanagan faces a pivotal vote this year on legislation approving the administration's plans for financing the ICC. "He may need three or four votes he may probably never be able to get," Middleton said.

Flanagan also has shown flashes of combativeness in his dealings with Franchot, a Montgomery County Democrat who chairs the subcommittee that oversees the transportation budget. At a recent hearing, when Franchot questioned the qualifications of some department appointees, Flanagan used a barnyard epithet to describe the proceedings.

The breach of legislative decorum earned the disapproval of the soft-spoken House Appropriations Committee chairman, Del. Norman H. Conway. "I felt that was crossing the line," Conway said.

Port dispute

Of the port dispute, Flanagan said he didn't want to personalize his differences with White, but acknowledged deep philosophical disagreements. "Should the port have season tickets to the Pittsburgh Steelers, to the Ravens, to the Orioles?" Flanagan said.

He added that the two men disagreed about White's desire to acquire land to expand port facilities. "My concern is that whenever the state owns land, it's taken off the tax rolls," Flanagan said.

He said his department has been the target of unfair criticism for hiring politically connected people without transportation experience. "I believe strongly that you can take bright, motivated people with transferable skills and put them in challenging positions where they can succeed," he said.

Flanagan, whose frequent TV appearances have made him one of the better-known Republicans in the state, has in the past had thoughts of higher office. In 1994 he announced a run for attorney general before deferring to another candidate. In 1998 he considered running for Howard County executive.

But he said his high profile today shouldn't be taken as a sign of future political plans. "This job ... takes every bit of energy, every bit of thinking power I have," he said. "Just expect me to be doing this job as long as Governor Ehrlich wants me here." 



Audit questions severance payments ; Transportation department gave $147,300 too much to 3 top-level aides, report says
[FINAL Edition]

The Sun - Baltimore, Md. 

Garland, Greg

Jul 15, 2006 

The Maryland Department of Transportation paid three senior- level employees $147,300 more in severance pay than its policies called for, including $65,000 to one person who spent only four months on the job, according to a report released yesterday by legislative auditors.

Another employee, who left under an ethical cloud, stayed on the payroll for more than a month after resigning and collected $13,000 more than she would have received if transportation officials had followed state regulations and normal agency policies, auditors found.

Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan said the severance payments were within his discretion to authorize and were in the agency's best interests.

The employee paid $65,000 had been hired by the Glendening administration for a position in the Maryland Transit Administration two weeks before Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took office in January 2003, Flanagan said.

"That person was terminated," Flanagan said. "We didn't think he was the right person for the job and made a change."

Flanagan said a "letter offer" by Robert L. Smith, then head of the MTA, had made a commitment to keep the new person on for a certain period of time.

Flanagan said he approved a severance payment of a half-year's salary to resolve the matter. "We felt we were bound by an offer made by the prior MTA administrator," Flanagan said.

Pointing to state laws protecting the confidentiality of personnel files, transportation officials would not release a copy of the "letter offer" or provide details of the employment agreement. The letter is not mentioned in the audit.

Flanagan said that it is sometimes necessary to offer an employment agreement to lure people with expertise in specialized fields to take positions in state government.

The employee involved, who was not identified, would have been entitled to only $10,000 severance pay if the the department had followed normal rules, auditors wrote.

Auditors also said that the department "lacked documentation to substantiate" that Flanagan had approved the payment.

In a written response to auditors, department officials said that human resources policy allows the transportation secretary to authorize up to six months' severance pay for management employees who resign.

A second case highlighted by auditors involved the payment of $13,000 to an employee "for accumulated compensatory leave that exceeded the limit provided by state regulations."

The employee also received $32,700 in severance and compensation for unused vacation and personal leave, auditors wrote

The employee, Marsha Kaiser, had been the focus of a special audit in May 2005 that raised questions about her oversight of $3.3 million in consulting work done for the state by a company that employs her husband.

Auditors had written that the work was poorly documented and that her role in overseeing the work appeared to violate state ethics laws governing conflicts of interest.

Kaiser was not named in either of the audit reports but was identified by other sources and in a settlement of the ethics complaint with a reprimand.

She resigned effective July 15, 2005, but was allowed to stay on the state payroll until Aug. 26 because of compensatory time she had accrued, according to the audit.

State regulations generally limit the payment of unused compensatory leave to five days, auditors wrote, although the transportation secretary can authorize more "under extraordinary circumstances."

In its written response to auditors, department officials said: "The employee was allowed to remain on payroll using compensatory leave, which is at the Secretary's discretion."

They added that the department is drafting written policies and procedures to govern when an employee would qualify for additional paid compensatory time beyond five days.

In an interview, Flanagan did not refer to Kaiser by name but said he was trying to be fair to an employee who became swept up in an ethics dispute because of honest mistakes made by the department in hiring her.

"This person was hired under circumstances where it should have been apparent that she could not do the job without getting involved" with her husband's employer, Flanagan said. 

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