Prince George's spent $43K on inauguration
Baker raised, spent more than $500,000 on his three-day celebration
Prince George's County spent more than $43,000 in government funds on the Dec. 6 inauguration of County Executive Rushern L. Baker III (D) and the County Council, county officials said.
The public cost for the ceremony in front of the Upper Marlboro government building comes in addition to more than $500,000 Baker raised and spent on his three-day inauguration celebration last month.
Baker's inaugural committee said a surge of supporters looking for tickets to an inaugural ball Dec. 6 at the Gaylord Hotel at National Harbor made costs go about $100,000 over original estimates.
"We had no idea it was going to escalate to this," said Inauguration Chairwoman Michelle Haywood, who said it cost $525,000 to stage the three days of events from Dec. 4 to 6, which were attended by more than 5,000 participants.
The most expensive event was the black-tie inaugural ball, attended by more than 2,000 guests. Heywood said the committee spent $249,000 for the event.
"Demand was so great. It was just out of control," Haywood said. "People were calling, looking for tickets almost begging. We had to expand."
Baker's nonprofit inaugural committee, Path To Greatness, also spent $269,000 on production costs, such as printing tickets and promotional materials, making press accommodations, creating a Baker tribute video, and hiring guest singers and speakers.
"We wanted to set the tone that this is a new era in the county," Baker said of the celebrations.
The price tag is in stark contrast to the state and neighboring counties. Montgomery County Executive Isiah "Ike" Leggett (D) and council members spent $5,000 on a public inauguration, and Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) last week canceled the traditional parade and black-tie celebration as he was sworn in to a second term in Annapolis, citing state budget concerns.
A spokeswoman for Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who also was newly elected last year, said the county spent $20,000 for the inauguration.
Prince George's taxpayers paid $43,596 for the public inauguration ceremony, which about 2,000 people attended, said Scott Peterson, Baker's spokesman.
The county paid $38,500 to Hargrove Inc., an event-planning company based in Lanham, for setup costs, Peterson said. The county also spent $1,684 to print and send 6,000 invitations, and other costs paid for media access to audio feeds and a special elevator for handicapped access to the event.
A Hargrove spokeswoman referred all questions to the county.
The cost raised questions but not outrage from Croom resident Dot Principe, who applauded Baker for disclosing the costs.
"I wouldn't want to sleight him the right to have a celebration. I know some people would consider $43,000 a drop in the bucket, but I don't," she said. "But I'd rather reserve my judgment of Rushern Baker for when he actually does something."
Most of the private costs for the inauguration came from $448,000 paid by company sponsors. The rest came from about 1,000 attendees at the ball, who paid between $50 and $100 for tickets.
The biggest sponsor was Southern Management Corp., a regional real estate company that owns several major apartment complexes in the region, who paid $25,000, according to the full list of sponsors on the inaugural website.
Seventy-eight other companies, including The Gazette, donated cash or services valued between $2,500 and $20,000.