Best Feud

It's been years since we've heard anything substantial from Baltimore City Comptroller Joan Pratt. The four-term incumbent habitually runs unopposed and declines to return City Paper's calls. As head of a $17-million agency charged with bookkeeping and audit duties, it's probably best that she let her reports speak for her. So we were mighty surprised to hear she stood up at a Board of Estimates meeting in July and told Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake that she had awarded an obscure internet-based telephone contract in violation of competitive bidding rules. And that the mayor was telling "untruths" when denying knowledge about the $659,000 deal, and that SRB had tried to buy her silence by offering to include money in the budget for two new positions in Pratt's department. Of course, it was a turf war. (Turns out $16 million of her office's budget is linked to her control of the city government phone system.) And, of course, Pratt lost. But for a few hot midsummer weeks, no one knew what would deploy next from the city's two most powerful elected officials' offices-or their mouths. Or what bizarre and slightly sleazy financial arrangements might be extracted from the bowels of the city budget. With no audits to speak of, it was the next-best thing.

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