Scandal on Wilzack's Watch

January 15, 1991

Officials responsible for the scandal surrounding the Maryland State Games have betrayed the public's trust. Outrageous mismanagement and extravagant spending that benefited health department officials, friends and relatives turned a legitimate program aimed at promoting amateur athletics into a self-aggrandizing sham.

Health secretary Adele A. Wilzack watched, encouraged and at times approved questionable activities by these officials. She must be held accountable for the Schaefer administration's first scandal.

As reporters from The Sun reporters have discovered, abuses include:

* $25,000 to set up a fencing academy that hired the wife of the State Games' director.

* $30,000 to buy sweat shirts so the director could open a mail-order retail store.

* $53,000 to buy two new cars and a van from the director's father.

* $8,000 for a country club membership.

* $3,000 awarded to the niece of a deputy health secretary for college tuition.

* $7,000 to rent two condos in Ocean City.

* $26,000 for out-of-state music directors to instruct the State Games marching band.

* $3,000 to send health department officials to Germany for a table tennis tournament.

* $50,000 for souvenirs, including glow-in-the-dark necklaces.

* $45,000 to a Virginia public relations firms headed by a friend of a deputy health secretary.

* $12,000 in ads in a magazine published by another friend of the director.

* $4,500 in drug abuse money spent for a band to entertain the governor's staff.

* $1,600 to Frostburg State University's athletic director as a fund-raising consultant, though he never made a call, a visit or a contact.

* $130,000 of FSU funds for the State Games, much of which may never be recouped.

The State Games office has been closed, officials directly responsible have been fired and a criminal investigation is under way. More must be done. Over $460,000 in federal grants for drug abuse prevention was intentionally diverted into the State Games program. This is unconscionable. The governor should, as a good-faith gesture, return that amount to Washington. And, as a favor to the governor, Ms. Wilzack ought to submit her resignation. The scandal happened on her watch.

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