Frustrated that the Cordish Company is gambling millions on building a new slot machine parlor in Anne Arundel County, yet continues to “hold hostage” down-trodden shopping centers in Edgewood and Joppatowne, Harford County Councilman Dion Guthrie has asked state representatives, including Gov. Martin O’Malley, to withhold the company’s slot machine gambling license until it corrects the deficiencies.
In a letter drafted Feb. 9 to Don Fry, the acting Chairman of the Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location Commission, Guthrie contends the Cordish Company’s shopping centers – Edgewater Village Shopping Center and Joppatowne Plaza – “require intense refurbishment and upkeep.”
Despite continuous notices and complaints, the Cordish Company has neglected its Edgewood and Joppatowne shopping centers and allowed them to become blights on their communities, Guthrie claims.
Guthrie further alleges in his letter that if the Cordish Company has the millions of dollars needed to be placed into escrow while applying for the slot machine gambling license, then it should have enough money to fix its dilapidated shopping centers in Harford County.
“If they can’t take care of this problem, how do you expect Cordish to maintain a gambling facility?” Guthrie asked in his letter.
Since distributing his incendiary letter and press packet, Guthrie appeared Monday on Channel 2 News in front of the Giant Shopping Center to state his case against Cordish.
After he was on the news, Guthrie got a visit from Cordish’s attorney. Guthrie said the attorney indicated Cordish was going to sue him. Guthrie asked why and was told it because he had used county letterhead illegally and because of a conflict of interest.
Guthrie is a former Business Manager and President of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 1501. He still does consulting work for the union and consulted on their contract with American Totalizer which is owned by Magna Entertainment Corporation. Magna is competing with Cordish for a Maryland slots license in Anne Arundel County.
Guthrie told the attorney the claims were ridiculous. The attorney said Cordish wanted to work things out, but Guthrie refused to meet with any more company representatives and insisted instead on meeting with David Cordish. That meeting is now scheduled for Monday, February 16th.
On Wednesday, February 11, Bob Waugh, Director of Retail Management & Development went to the Harford County Council Chambers looking for Guthrie’s public financial records, but they are kept with the County Attorney’s office across the street. Someone at the front desk directed Waugh to the proper place, but tipped Guthrie off that an inquiry had been made.
Guthrie then contacted Deputy County Attorney Nancy Giorno and told her, under the Freedom of Information Act, he had the right to know who was looking for his files. She agreed Guthrie did have that right and gave him Waugh’s name.
Regarding his financial records, Guthrie said, “I have no tax problems and the only property I own is the house I live in.”
Later that night, Waugh attended the ECC meeting on behalf of Cordish to answer concerns from the community about the state of the former Giant shopping center. Guthrie and others were upset and complained about the lack of action.
Near the end of the meeting, Guthrie said he had one more question for Waugh: “What are you going to do with my financials?” According to Guthrie, Waugh stuttered and said “Don’t shoot the messenger, I’ve got a boss. I’m just doing what I’m told.”
When asked why he thought the Cordish Company was interested in his financial records, Guthrie said he thought it was for a lawsuit because Cordish is “mad I made this an issue.”
Part of the initial packet Guthrie helped distribute included this press release from civil rights attorney Omar Simpson:
“Slum Lord Billionaire” Seeks Slot Machine Gaming License!!!
The Cordish Company and its affiliates recently applied for a slots gaming license that would, if granted, generate hundreds of millions of dollars for Cordish. The only problem is… Cordish is currently holding several Harford County communities hostage with its refusal to refurbish, replace or renovate its Harford County properties! So, at the very same time Cordish seeks the right to make millions upon millions of dollars from Maryland citizens, it is neglecting those very same citizens.
The stakes are high for Cordish, but even more so for the communities Cordish has neglected. “Our children play here every day”, said one Edgewater resident, “They [Cordish] drove away the Giant supermarket, now we don’t have one…me and my daughter have to walk along Route 40 all the way over to the Mars supermarket miles away every time we need something.”
The problem has gotten so bad that members of the Harford County Council have taken notice. Councilman Dion Guthrie and Council Member Mary Ann Lisanti, in an effort to force Cordish to maintain its properties, have drafted a letter detailing the situation that will be sent to Mr. Donald Fry, the Acting Chairman of the Maryland Video Lottery Facility Location Commission. In addition, the letter will be sent to other State representatives including Governor Martin O’Malley, Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Senator Nancy Jacobs, Senator Barry Glassman, Delegate Mary-Dulany James, Delegate B. Daniel Riley, Delegate Rick Impallaria, Delegate J. B. Jennings, Delegate Pat McDonough, Delegate H. Wayne Norman, Jr., Delegate Donna M. Stifler and Delegate Susan K. McComas.
In their letter the Council Members state:
“The Cordish Company properties, known as the Edgewater Village Shopping Center, Joppatowne Plaza, and Havre de Grace Plaza located in Edgewood, Joppa, and Havre de Grace, respectively, require intense refurbishment and upkeep…
The Cordish Company, by and through the direction, leadership and management of its Chairman, David Cordish, has neglected to properly and adequately maintain these properties located in Harford County over many years and disregards our continual requests to do so.
The Cordish Company has received numerous notices and complaints, prior to the economic recession experienced nationally, of the continuous state of disrepair of these properties from members of the public, as well as elected leaders of Harford County, myself included.
Despite notification of the unattractiveness and ramshackle appearances of these properties, Cordish Company has failed to eradicate all incidences of disrepair and dilapidation.
The commercial properties left in these dilapidated states of disrepair are a blight to Harford County and cast a negative impact on the specific areas where these properties are located in Edgewood, Joppa, and Havre de Grace…”
Do we dare grant Cordish slots licenses worth hundreds of millions of dollars when they won’t take care of these smaller properties? Do we dare grant Cordish slots licenses worth hundreds of millions of dollars while they so blatantly neglect Maryland citizens? These are the questions Marylanders are going to want their representatives to answer and soon. Cordish is set to supplement its application for a license in April of this year and could possibly be granted a license as early as fall of 2009.
So, in case you haven’t heard, Mr. Fry, I for one will be there on the 13th to let you know that, like the popular box office hit that’s sweeping the nation, Harford County has its own “Slum Lord Billionaire!”
If you remember correctly it was the Cordish Company that got the lease at the old brokerage as MOM’s first order of business when he was elected mayor in Baltimore. Cordish then made millions while the city got peanuts and any competition got pushed under through various visits from a collection of different agencies. There were a couple of pieces in the Sun. The City Paper has shown network connections. Good luck Dion, Marty’s pal has a lot of pull in Maryland and certain sections of Florida.
Who disagrees with saying Dion Guthrie is a slumdog billionaire except maybe Martin O’Malley?
Now, when will Dion stop proposing more tax hikes. His reputation as the pro-tax council-member is absurd. Transfer tax, impact fee, etc. And remember his Sheila Dixon moments? He put his campaign contributors zoning requests up front and County Executive Craig & other Council members rejected this corruption. Then there was the whole incident of him stealing his opponent’s campaign signs. What’s next from him?
So now the gang problem in Edgewood is a Cordish problem?
Why is the business community to blame for an area that would breed gangs and have homeless living in a shopping center?
Sounds more like a government and community problem to me. Perhaps Dion and Sheriff Bane should get on their own game before they blame a company. How is Cordish supposed to make a profit when the community can’t support strong rent-paying tenants? If a landlord can’t secure quality tenants, capital improvements can’t be justified. Very simple.
It was not Cordish that drove Giant away. Giant simply found the store unprofitable or underperforming compared to its other stores.
There are obviously some things on the presentation that should be fixed. However, they should be fixed because the property owner has an interest in maintaining an asset. They should not be fixed because some government official is holding a gun to the company’s “head”.
Where is John Galt when you need him?
Perhaps Cordish and other landlords will go into hiding and then there will be no retail in Joppa or Edgewood. Think they couldn’t happen? Cordish is well heeled enough that he could sit on a vacant property or two just to prove a point.
A legislator is granted a great deal of leeway in representing constituents, but Guthrie is really treading on thin ice here. He is going very close to slander and libel on this one. Legislative immunity goes only so far when the victim has millions of dollars and the best lawyers in the state on his side.
Guthrie may be well-intended, but he has gone to far on this one. Next he will be supporting an Equalization of Opportunity Act. This might win him some points with voters in District 34 but the cost of angering such powerful enemies may not be worth it.
Delegate B. Dan Riley says
Many citizens have well-deserved concerns over the Cordish shopping centers in Harford County. On February 9, at 5:15 PM I met with Don Fry on this issue. After the meeting I think the best course of action is for many of us to attend the zoning hearing on slots in the Arundel Mall. At the meeting Harford Countians can express the type of landlord Cordish represents. It is my understanding that the hearing will be in March. Maybe Dion can check with his counterparts on the Anne Arundel Council for more information on the hearing.
Also, I feel it is important to get our facts in order. Cordish maybe an undesirable landlord, but it is their property. If there are zoning or code violations they must be enforced by Harford County. The “tagging” is a gang problem and Cordish should address this issue.
It is nice to see other malls decorate their facilities according to the season or holidays. It is very depressing to see the minimum amount of effort of decorations committed by Cordish to their shopping centers. Not a way to attract businesses to fill the vacant stores or customers to shop at the existing stores.
In defense of Cordish, they did not drive Giant Supermarkets out of Edgewood. Giant was planning to move when they openned up their Abingdon store. Myself and others asked Giant to stay open in Edgewood and they did untill too much merchandise was “walking out the door” and they could not make a profit.
I also am very curious as to why Cordish shopping centers in Edgewood and Joppatone were mentioned in one letter and Harve de Grace excluded. While in another letter all 3 shopping centers were indeed mentioned. Does this represent a slip by the writer or a deal with Cordish to improve the HDG shopping center?
Thank you Dion for bringing attention to this important issue in our community. You have my support.
Is cordish the almost abandoned shopping center in hdg or one of the new ones ?
I have been to the Seminole slots parlor and I would hardly call it the work of a “slumdog billionaire.” Sure it would be nice for Rt. 40 to get a facelift, but the last person to earnestly put any effort into that was Nancy Jacobs with that beautiful wall with flowers that runs down 40 that she and Governor Ehrlich installed.
A lot of us voted for Martin O’Malley and have we seen a single thing done in Rt 40? O’Malley has done nothing for Rt 40. Nothing. David Craig has done some good things too, especially working with the Sheriff.
“Harford County Councilman Dion Guthrie spent 40 years installing slot machines and video lottery terminals at tracks around the country for the American Totalisator Company.
“I have seen wherever they have put in slot machines and or casinos, if they weren’t at the racetracks … it was matter of time before the racetracks closed,” Guthrie said. “It’s the final nail in the coffin.”
“The company is based in Hunt Valley, Maryland. It was once owned by General Instrument, later sold to a division of Motorola. Today, AmTote International is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Magna Entertainment Corporation, corporate parent of several race tracks, including Pimlico.”
To secure a license, Magna was required to submit a $28.5 million fee for its bid to put 4,750 machines at the Laurel Park track.
But the company balked at paying without assurances that it would get the money back if it couldn’t obtain all the necessary zoning and permits.
Magna lost millions of dollars last year and owes hundreds of millions more to creditors.
There are four remaining bids for licenses, including a bid from the Baltimore-based Cordish Co. to put 4,750 slots in a mall in Anne Arundel County.”
So Dion wrote a slanderous letter to grab some press attention and fuel a negative image of David Cordish and failed to disclose he spent 42 years working for Cordish’s current opponent in a slots bid?!?! Gee, does anyone really think that is an honest omission? Dion, we may have been born at night, but we weren’t born last night! Picking on “slumdog billionaires” for a bunch of “Canadian millionaires” (and former bosses) is pretty bad.
Speaking of upkeep… what did Magna ever do to upkeep those tracks? I mean I don’t care for Cordish’ local property upkeep, but the last time I drove through the Pimlico area of town I feared for my life. What’s Magna then… Slumtrack Millionaires?