By Adam Pagnucco.
Less than a month after leaving county government, former MoCo Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) Andrew Kleine has written an essay for Engaging Local Government Leaders, a public manager association, about his experiences in dealing with the COVID-19 crisis. The essay has set tongues wagging about whether Kleine has more to say about his time as CAO.
Kleine’s essay is fairly innocuous. He discusses teleworking, newsletters, masks and his personal exercise routine. He does not discuss his resignation. Notably, the essay makes him look good. The other thing one takes away from it is that Kleine is a superior writer. His writing style is concise, engaging, occasionally humorous and even a little zippy. It’s hard to write about government with zip, but Kleine can pull it off as he did in his book about Baltimore, City on the Line.
From a political perspective, the thing to notice about City on the Line is that Kleine names names. He recounts events and assigns quotes to city managers and politicians. Among other things, he reported this quote from then-Mayor Sheila Dixon: “The budget is like a $3 billion black box to me… The decisions brought to me are at the margins, which means that, as far as I know, 99 percent of the budget is basically on autopilot.” I bet Kleine is right. Very few politicians in my experience know much of anything about the budgets they are supposed to oversee. But what politician wants to see a quote like that in print?
As CAO, Kleine was THE top manager in MoCo government. He would have been present for all the big decisions. He knows who said what, who did what and how everything turned out. Heaven knows what documentation he has. Heaven knows how much he would be willing to say, but in his book on Baltimore, he said a LOT. (Kleine’s funniest story relates to a city manager who accused him of wanting to write a book about Baltimore after he leaves the city.)
If I were a senior official in the executive branch, I would dread the prospect of Kleine writing a book about his experiences in MoCo. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain. Let’s remember that Kleine never wanted to resign. The county council forced County Executive Marc Elrich to push him out. How would you feel if something like that happened to you?
One more thing: Kleine has plenty of time to publish another book before the next election.