A reader has kindly pointed out to me that I failed to notice a potential conflict of interest in commenting on South Mountain preservation stories.
A local story, previously linked here, contained these passages, which I failed to associate and interpret:
… the Maryland Board of Public Works on Wednesday approved $237,207 in state, federal and private funds to purchase conservation easements for two crucial parcels on the battlefield. […] Of the total [36.6 acres], about 25.6 acres known as the Wilson property was the headquarters of Union Gen. George McClellan … according to a statement from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources. […] The Civil War Preservation Trust, the department's Program Open Space and the Maryland State Highway Administration's Transportation Enhancement Program supply funds for the easement purchases.
Assuming that the easements payment was divided equitably, the Wilson property owners got 2/3 of $237,000, or about $152,000 and the right to keep the property. Some of that was Civil War Preservation Trust money, most was government money.
So who are these Wilsons owning "the Wilson property?" CWPT rigorously guards the identities of the beneficiaries of its purchases but my correspondent suggests that there is a defunct bed and breakfast on the site at one time owned by the executive director of the Central Maryland Heritage League, someone whose name, accidentally or not, matches the circumstances.
If this is true, are we looking at backsratching? Or worse? Doesn't CMHL team up with CWPT to get state funds for easement buying?
Who generally are the various recipients of CWPT- and CMHL- arranged easement payouts? Might they be allies, associates, friends of family, board members, state regulators? The only sure way to know is for CWPT (and CMHL) to disclose exactly who has received its payments and what their past and potential relations are with each body.
With all due respect to the personalities involved, the CWPT is headed by a former political appointee sitting on $16 million in potential deal and patronage money that can be handed out without declaring the identities of any of the recipients. We have, in this blog, even looked for names in the tax filings of CWPT, only to be stymied.
As a charity susceptible to abuse, Civil War Preservation Trust is in a truly frightening position. Donors should demand full disclosure of the Wilson deal as a beginning.