Howard County Maryland Blog

Convention of States in Maryland

Isis, oh, Isis, you mystical child.

Posted by David Keelan on Tuesday, March 6, 2007

That is a line from one of my favorite Bob Dylan songs.  I am a big fan of Bob Dylan.  His son, Jacob (Wallflowers) could have a big career ahead of him too.  I like all of Bob Dylan’s music except for the album he did with Johnny Cash.  Both men have unique voices.  Put them together and it will make you … Well you decide.  I am sure you can find a sample on line.

Isis, oh, Isis, you mystical child.
What drives me to you is what drives me insane.
I still can remember the way that you smiled
On the fifth day of May in the drizzlin’ rain.

Hayduke is waiting for proof of those allegations laid out in Lynn Anderson’s Baltimore Sun hatchet job on (among others) Chris Merdon.  Ian, you will have to keep waiting.  Ian might make good editorial decisions.  I would say that The Sun should hire him because he must have better instincts than Lynn Anderson and her editor.

Lynn Anderson says that ISIS was registered with the State the day after Chris Merdon met with Ted Bayer and Mark Anzman – August 26th.  Do you understand what she is implying?  A private meeting was held with DHR, and three men.  The next day they formed a shell minority owned business to do unfairly win State contracts.  That is it right?  Did anyone else get a different impression?

That is a notice of the meeting Ms. Anderson is referencing.  It is a pre-bid conference that over 40 people attended.  I counted twice and came up with 42 people both times.  Lynn Anderson writes her article in such a way as to imply the Merdon had a private meeting with DHR and these two men.  That is not a very “private” meeting and could not be further from the truth.  The attendee list can be found on the link provided.  Did Lynn Anderson bother to read the 8 page document?

Do I need to explain what a pre-bid conference is?  Well just in case you don’t know.  It isn’t a meeting.  It is more like a lecture.  “We are seeking bids on the following.  These are our requirements… and blah blah blah” for an hour or so.  They are not fun, but if you want the business you got to be there.  Guess who runs those meetings.  Usually the procurement staff Ms. Anderson writes about.

Ms. Anderson notes that ISIS was to “perform 11 percent of the work”.  She doesn’t mention that ISIS provided a couple of contract employees for a few hours of work.  They never approached 11 hours of work.

That is only after looking at the beginning of her article.  That is her definition of a “direct role” in the formation of ISIS on Merdon’s part?  Lynn Anderson is an embarassment to real journalists.  A blogger can do better research than that.  My apologies to all bloggers.  The Articles of Incorporation don’t mention Merdon either.  Look it up on the SDAT web site.

“DIRECT ROLE”.  That is a DIRECT quote.

Lets go further.  She implies that it was improper of Merdon to hire Gantech as a sub-contractor because of political donations.  She fails to mention that Gantech was also at the pre-submission meeting (referenced above), expressed interest in the project, was qualified to do the work, had provided work for the State previously and was known as a reliable prime contractor and sub-contractor.  She implies Merdon was doling out political favors.  I wonder why she didn’t say Gantech had a “direct role” in the formation of ISIS since they were in the private meeting too.  Hmmm.

Here is a question.

Can anyone explain why it takes 120 days to be approved as a minority business in the State?  Why shouldn’t it take only 30 days?  Should it take less time than 30 days?  Seriously, there are only 6 requirements to become an MBE.  Race/Gender, net worth, US Citizen, small business.  How long does it take to do an assets test?  Never mind I will ask Calvin Ball the question about assets testing.

The Comptroller said this:

“We want to be a pro-business state in Maryland, and that means that everybody plays by the same rules,” said Franchot, who previously served as chairman of the transportation and environment subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee. “And if the playing field is tilted for any reason, normal businesses turn away from Maryland.”

He is absolutely correct.  He should also ask the Secretary of Transportation (who runs MBE) to stream line the application process so it doesn’t take 4 months to be certified as a minority owned business.  I think during the investigation they are going to find that many businesses (if not all) were trying to expidite a ridiculously long 4 month time period.  And why would anyone be surprised if that turned out to be the case.  Think about it if you had to wait 4 months for certification in anything.  If you are a business that means money.  Yes money.  That is what businesses are about.  They have employees and bills to pay too.

In the end the investigation will go foward and we will never hear another word about it.  Why?  Cover up?  No.  Because it is not a story even worth the bits on this page.

Merdon should sue Anderson and the Baltimore Sun.

30 Responses to “Isis, oh, Isis, you mystical child.”

  1. Hayduke said

    Your added information is appreciated. It gives much needed background to the story. I’m still not sure how I feel about the whole thing and I hope the Sun continues to cover the story (and you continue to cover the Sun).

    You’re completely right about Dylan and Cash. I understand they were friends and everything, but their voices are like oil and water.

  2. Ann said

    Thank you for your research on this subject that should have been done by the Sun reporter, Lynn Anderson. The lack of fact checking should be an embarrassment to both her and the newspaper. The Sun should issue an apology for this slip-shod reporting, and write you a check for your research.

    It is obvious that Lynn Anderson has no clue on public procurement processes, and it is a shame that Hayduke jumped on this bandwagon. Hayduke does a nice job on development and environmental issues, but obviously he has an agenda when reporting on Merdon.

    Merdon has firmly stated he is no longer considering a career in politics, but it is obvious that there are some who still fear he maybe be a threat.

  3. I echo Ann above. It is amazing that someone who does this as a hobby for free can do such a better job digging up facts than someone who is being paid to supposedly be reporter full time.

    I’d be curious to know how long it took you David to dig up this information. It wasn’t like this was a time sensitive issue to being with, so the reporter could have taken as long as she needed to get all the facts before publishing her story, but I am curious….

  4. Emerson said

    “Merdon should sue Anderson and the Baltimore Sun” unless of course the story is true! Sounds like Ms. Anderson got a lot of help from Carol Hirschberg who seems a little upset that She never got payola….

  5. jim adams said

    Takes 120 days because: volume
    : employee sick leave
    : vacation leave
    : Holidays
    : existance of 120 day approval pd.
    : bureaucrats
    : politicians
    To correct it to 30 days – politician convinces bureaucrat, it was the bureaurat’s idea to reduce it to 30 days.

  6. ann said

    Many times if the procurement office feels that there is not enough competition among MBE firms for that particular skill set, the process can be expedited. There are legitimate reasons to have a firm “fast tracked.” It is in the best interest of the Government to have competition, it keeps prices down.

    The process varies state to state, city to city, and even the Federal Government has different requirements. In addition, there are differences between Maryland’s MBE and DBE program, that many people don’t understand, there is even differentation between firms that are minority owned and women owned.

    I work for an MBE company, which is certified in many states, cities, counties, etc. Maryland has a well run program, I believe the regulation of program is managed fairly.

    My point is, unless you have an understanding of the process and requirements of government procurement programs (especially small and minority owned programs), it is very cavalier to make broad statements of “political favoritism” like Lynn Anderson and Jim Adams have done.

  7. Emerson said

    The rule is a scandal is supposed to be “Follow the Money” strangly enouge Ms. Anderson ignored that and there is no mention of a contract award or ISIS recieving a dime. Kinda of interesting how the media creates a scandal when no one has benefited from it?

  8. Judas said

    “There are legitimate reasons to have a firm fast tracked. It is in the best interest of the Government to have competition, it keeps prices down.”

    This is a very misleading comment. It implies that the minority businesses keep prices down by increasing competition. Minority owned businesses could always compete toe to toe with other businesses without using their skin color or gender to their advantage in bidding the contract. The minority status just gives them an advantage which some would call unfair. Ann is doing nothing more than rationalizing here.

  9. Ann said


    Competition BETWEEN MBE firms was the intent of the statement.

    The state has laws and regulations for state contracts regarging minority/women participation, if there is only one firm available to perform services, guess what – who is going to get all the business – that one and only MBE firm, and they can control pricing.

    It is good business to try and encourage competition.

    The minority status does not always provide an advantage. In the State of Maryland, if your are an MBE PRIME contractor you have no advantage over a non-MBE firm. The advantage only comes if you are a sub-contractor, points are only given to businesses who utilize MBE subcontractors.

    Judas – there are many kinds of set aside contract programs around the country including programs for Disabled Veterans, Vietnam Veterans, Small Businesses (non MBE for firms less than 500 people), HUB Zone (businesses located in economically disadvantaged areas – which includes areas next to the White House because it is a high risk security area), Local Firms (including large businesses)- you get the picture.

    80% of the American population is employed small businesses. The U.S. Government started these programs in the 1940’s to ensure competition, and encourage entreprenuership.

  10. Judas said

    Ann, if I understand you correctly, minority businesses stifle competition. If we want fair competition, the best thing to do is be blind to color and gender. I agree with you on this point.

  11. jim adams said

    Ann, your response is well written, but I know we are looking at the same issue from different points of view. I was describing what is and how it may be changed to improve the situation. I have often seen the approach of allowing the other person to take credit, as a way of creating positive change.

    Another reason for our different points of view.You work for an MBE,I work for a GOV.

  12. hocoterp said

    For full disclosure I am employed by an MBE that is also a small business, although at the rate it is growing, it will not be considered a small business for much longer. Which in a way, really introduces the point I want to make. A small start-up or young company cannot compete against a larger, established organization for state contracts. Reasons why include economies of scale, business experience, capital, and performance record, among many others. That means that you have a current number of larger companies that can bid competitively but that number will basically remain static. While there is some competition, it is not an entirely competitive market.

    To address this, the state and Federal government have programs to help small and minority owned businesses. The intention of these programs is to allow these businesses to grow to the point where they can eventually compete with the established players and increase the competition in the marketplace. Once a company has a chance to establish itself and grows out of the small or minority owned business classification (if a company has average annual revenue over a certain amount it will no longer qualify as an MBE) it is competing against the established corporations for state contracts. So instead of a static number of companies bidding as primes for state projects, you have new competitors entering the market place. That should mean more competition, not less.

    I see where Judas is coming from when he says that MBEs stifle competition because there is a certain percentage of contracts that are supposed to be reserved for small or minority businesses, which prevents large or non-minority owned businesses from competing. The state is sacrificing some competition for subcontracts in the short term for the expected payoff of increased competition on prime contracts in the long term. My company’s growth, and their ability to competitively bid as a prime contractor, is evidence that this process is occurring.

  13. Ann said

    Set aside programs exist where there is a need. For example, Disabled Veterans for those men and women who served our country and deserve a chance for opportunity, or a Local Businesses set aside requirement where the local economy needs a jump start, and the local government does wants to see the revenue stay in the local economy. First Source hiring, in the case of DC it encourages hiring of local talent. Judas – it is not always race or gender based.

    Hocoterp – good explanation.

    Jim, I see your point, I felt the same way when I worked for “Club Fed” – 17 years. It does look a little different from the other side of the table.

    Thanks guys, it was a good discussion.

  14. Isis withdraws from MBE program.


  15. jim adams said

    Thanks Ann.

  16. Interesting factoid at the end of the article David Wissing sent.

    “In the end, Isis officials backed out of the DHR technology contract when they were told by the prime contractor, ACS State and Local Solutions Inc., that they might not get the full $12 million but would have to compete with other minority businesses.”

    So the original implication was that Merdon was trying to give business to a company he allegedly “played direct roles” to found. Yet, “In the end…” ISIS had to compete for the business. That explains why they only did 11 hours worth of work.

    Remember what her article stated?

    “But state records show that two non-minority firms – Syscom and ACS State and Local Solutions Inc. – played direct roles in the formation of Isis”

    Why didn’t Lynn Anderson include this in her two previous articles on the subject? Is she just sloppy or was she in pursuit of Republican politicians and in her lazy pursuit of her story didn’t bother to fact check everything before she published her story?

  17. D. Thomas said

    Looks to me like Hirschburg withdrew Isis once they were busted by Anderson. Doesn’t change the fact that they were fast-tracked as a favor to Merdon and Bayer.

  18. D. Thomas,

    Perhaps you missed the point. There is no evidence that they were fast tracked as a favor to Merdon. You call it a FACT despite a lack of evidence.

    If a person alleges they were punched by someone and presses charges with the police would the Police and the prosecuter require evidence of such a violent act? That makes sense to me.

  19. D. Thomas said

    Meeting between Merdon and DHR, 30 day approval time vs. standard of 120. Plenty of evidence.

  20. Emerson said

    Only those liberals on a witch hunt would jump to the conclusion of “D. Thomas”. Again as stated time and again ISIS got no money – Where is the money? None here

  21. D. Thomas,

    It is obvious you did not read the post. As such I don’t know why you are commenting on this subject.

    Let me simplify this.

    Merdon and 41 other people met with DHR at the same time. It was a pre-bid conference. Lynn Anderson’s story makes it appear though that pre-bid conference was a private meeting when in fact no such meeting took place. The documentation is provided in the body of the post.

    Secondly, DHR has nothing to do with MBE certification and thus could not fast track ISIS’ application so a meeting with DHR in that regard would be meaningless.

    Is that simple enough?

  22. D. Thomas said

    Sorry, I forgot. Dissenting opinions are not welcome on your website.

    Can you prove that no private meeting took place? Sure, you posted a random document stating that a meeting with 40+ people in attendance occurred, but you cannot substantiate that no private meeting took place. Correct?

  23. How often do you come to this site? There is a lot of dissention. Perhaps you don’t like dissention?

    To answer your question.

    I can not prove that “no private meeting took place” anymore than you can prove that a meeting took place. I could be wrong but I think all you know is what you read in the paper.

    I only know what I know by talking to the people involved. Something Lynn Anderson should do more often. The people I talked to say no such “private” meeting took place and if Lynn Anderson had spoken to them they could have made that clear. However, that conversation never took place. Additionally, Lynn Anderson never said a private meeting took place. She only implied it so she could not be sued – good word smithing on her part.

    So it comes down to this. I prefer to take the news reports with a grain of salt and speak to the people involved (when I can). It seems (at least I am left with the impression) as though you find the news reports to be credible and beyond questioning.

    Now I don’t want to tell the readers what you think or put words in your mouth. You might take the opportunity to tell us if you take the newspaper reports at face value, if you believe that their reports are beyone reproach, and if you spoke to any of the players in the story.

    Finally, if it wouldn’t be too much trouble I would appreciate what your thoughts as to my second point in my previous reply… “Secondly, DHR has nothing to do with MBE certification and thus could not fast track ISIS’ application so a meeting with DHR in that regard would be meaningless.”

  24. D. Thomas said

    Yes, I’ll ask Mary Smith about what happens when people dissent.

    So, I am to take the newpaper article with a grain of salt, but not question your version of events, according to your conversations with the people involved? And why is that? Why does your version of events carry added weight? Why are you and your sources beyond questioning?

  25. cindy vaillancourt said

    David Keelan wrote: “I could be wrong but I think all you know is what you read in the paper.”

    I think this is the critical point. Most people only know what they read in the paper — and even fewer people bother to think about what they read before they believe it or repeat it.

    I believe “reporters” who are not objective should identify themselves as commentators — and those individual who call themselves “reporters” (journalists) who do not know the difference or are not competent enough to be reliable sources of objective and accurate information should be “called out” each and every time their “reports” demonstrate bias, misrepresentation or factual errors — whether it is deliberate or not.

    As far as this particular topic goes — it is a given that people who spend their personal and professional lives in and around government and business develop relationships and “networks” of information that they use to advance their business and personal goals.

    I don’t think that is odd or inappropriate. When an opportunity presents itself, anyone so inclined should make every effort to identify the qualifications needed proceed with fulfilling them.

    I have no doubt there are times when folks with connections have been unfairly rewarded with government contracts, etc — that is wrong (like no-bid contracts to haliburton) —

    but the simple “fact” that people know each other, offer advice or try to acquire the necessary status to be eligible for participation is not necessarily questionable.

    In fact – I would question the qualifications of people who want to be considered for government contracts without doing their homework, talking to people familiar with the project and seeking the necessary credentials.

    Cindy V.

  26. Tell Mary hello.

    I don’t expect anyone to take my version of events in whole. That is the whole reason this blog exists – dissention and discussion. What I present is additional information that shows Lynn Anderson is sloppy. She didn’t report the whole story. That is my whole point.

    The Baltimore Sun did a poor job of reporting on the subject.

    You stated:

    Meeting between Merdon and DHR, 30 day approval time vs. standard of 120. Plenty of evidence.

    “Plenty of evidence”

    Looks to me like Hirschburg withdrew Isis once they were busted by Anderson. Doesn’t change the fact that they were fast-tracked as a favor to Merdon and Bayer.

    “…fast-tracked as a favor to Merdon…”

    Even Lynn Anderson doesn’t go that far, but you have no problem going there.

    You still haven’t answered the question:

    “Secondly, DHR has nothing to do with MBE certification and thus could not fast track ISIS’ application so a meeting with DHR in that regard would be meaningless.”

  27. jim adams said

    Is outing a Republican thing?

    Is Valerie Plame just another Mary Smith?

  28. Emerson said

    The big difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans step down when they are ACUSED of wrongdoing – Some Democrats even when recently indited seem the have problems with doing the right thing!

  29. Typical politics of destruction as perfected by republicans and democrats in Washington, DC

  30. jim adams said

    I agree David, but would like to put it a little different.

    Typical politics of destruction as perfected by political people whether they are republicans, democrats, or otherwise, no matter were they live.

    Have a good weekend.

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