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!”