Md. Governor's Travels Cost Taxpayers Thousands of Dollars

Md. Gov. Martin O’Malley’s campaign travels and out-of-state governmental visits have cost taxpayers approximately $137,000 in the past year, according to an investigation by the News4 I-Team.

The money was used to help cover travel costs for the governor’s state police security detail, including flights, hotel rooms and meals for the troopers. Though such travel costs are customary for the security details of U.S. governors, the I-Team’s review found O’Malley’s security travel cost exceeded those of neighboring states.

O’Malley, widely considered a possible presidential candidate in 2016, made at least 23 campaign trips outside of Maryland between July 2013 and July 2014, according to campaign records. State police joined the governor during those trips.

The 23 campaign visits included trips to pivotal presidential primary states of New Hampshire, Iowa and South Carolina. Records provided to the I-Team by O’Malley’s campaign show many of the visits were fundraisers or campaign appearances on behalf of other candidates.

A spokesman for the governor said campaign or private funding foots the bills for O’Malley and his staff’s campaign travel expenses. But an official with Maryland State Police, which runs the governor’s executive protection detail, said the state police budget is used to fund all travel by the governor’s security detail.

“We provide around-the-clock protective services to the Governor. He remains the Governor wherever he goes, so we are there," a state police spokesperson said.

The I-Team, using the Freedom of Information Act, obtained similar expense reports from the state police agencies in neighboring states. In each of the four states surveyed by the I-Team – Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and North Carolina – the out-of-state travel costs of state police executive protection security details was less than half of the expenses incurred by O’Malley’s detail.

The out-of-state travel costs for state troopers assigned to the governors of West Virginia and Delaware totaled approximately $57,000 in the past year. The cost of one year of out-of-state travel for Virginia State Police’s executive protection unit was $38,980. For North Carolina State Police, the cost was $12,368.

Former Baltimore County Police supervisor Bob Oatman, author of “The Art of Executive Protection,” said taxpayers benefit from the police protection offered to governors.

“The bottom line is it’s a good return on investment,” Oatman said.  

Oatman said troopers provide transportation for governors, allowing governors more time to focus on work and take phone calls.

“There is an inherent risk to being a person in government at a high level, especially representing a large state,” Oatman said.  

He added travel expenses for state troopers who accompany O’Malley are an important use of taxpayer money. Government watchdogs said the frequency of O’Malley’s campaign-related travels is unfairly burdening Maryland taxpayers.

Pete Sepp, a Silver Spring resident who helps manage the National Taxpayers Union, said the state should consider private funding for state police travel expenses.  

“Regardless of political party, governors have special responsibility to taxpayers to travel whenever necessary, but no more than that," Sepp said.

A spokesman for O’Malley said when the Governor flies on a private plane – not paid for by the state – the executive protection unit troopers fly with him. Doing so, he said, helps save Maryland State Police money from its budget for airfare.

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