- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 20, 2007

BALTIMORE (AP)— Alison L. Asti resigned under pressure yesterday as executive director and general counsel of the Maryland Stadium Authority, a quasipublic agency that has been subject to scrutiny since the release of two critical legislative audits.

Miss Asti and the authority’s board of directors agreed to a settlement of her contract, which runs through 2010 and specifies that she would remain as general counsel even if she were removed as executive director. Neither Miss Asti nor the board would disclose the terms of the settlement, which is subject to approval by the Board of Public Works.

Miss Asti, who has worked as a lawyer for the stadium authority for 20 years nearly its entire existence maintains that Gov. Martin O’Malley wanted to oust her for political reasons.

“There [was] nothing ever suggested about the quality of my performance,” she said.

Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for the governor, declined to comment on whether Mr. O’Malley was unhappy with Miss Asti’s performance, but he said Miss Asti “continues to make baseless allegations about the reasons for her resignation.”

Board Chairman Frederick W. Puddester, an O’Malley appointee, also declined to comment on the reasons for Miss Asti’s ouster.

“We’re just making a change,” he said.

Mr. Puddester said he would ask David A. Raith, the authority’s chief financial officer, to serve as interim executive director. She will remain in her position until the three-member Board of Public Works, which includes Mr. O’Malley, approves the settlement.

Established in 1986, the authority manages Oriole Park at Camden Yards, M&T; Bank Stadium where the Baltimore Ravens play and more than a dozen other facilities around the state, including convention centers and other entertainment venues. Six of its board members are appointed by the governor to staggered four-year terms, while the seventh is appointed by the mayor of Baltimore.

Miss Asti began working for the authority in 1987 as a private lawyer and has served as its general counsel since 1994. She took over as executive director in 2004 after Richard W. Slosson resigned after a highly critical state audit.

Another audit, published in February, found additional problems, including a $42,000 payment to Mr. Slosson for less than an hour of consulting work.

While the payment to Mr. Slosson was approved before Miss Asti became executive director, Mr. O’Malley said after the audit was released that it provided “an opportunity to stir things up on the stadium authority and put in new leadership.”

Miss Asti and her supporters think the governor was planning to remove her even before the audit was completed.

“I had reason to believe my position was in jeopardy long before the auditors walked in the door,” Miss Asti said yesterday.

Former board Chairman Robert L. McKinney said Miss Asti cleared up nearly all the problems described in the 2004 audit and that the major failures in this year’s audit did not occur on her watch.

“It should be clear that if the governor has reasons he wants to oust Ms. Asti, they are not based on the audit,” Mr. McKinney wrote in a letter released this week.

Miss Asti’s attorney, Andrew D. Levy of the Baltimore firm Brown, Goldstein & Levy, said Miss Asti was satisfied with the terms of the settlement and will be paid an unspecified lump sum.

Miss Asti’s current base salary as executive director is $257,000, not including deferred payments into a retirement account. Her contract called for her to continue as general counsel, at a slightly reduced salary, if she were removed as executive director.

Mr. Puddester said the board would conduct a broad search for Miss Asti’s replacement.

“I would be looking for someone with some business background, who has managed complex organizations,” he said.

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