Auction under Hughes is termed aboveboard

March 02, 1991|By Peter Jensen | Peter Jensen,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- Schaefer administration officials could provide no information yesterday to support allegations made by Hilda Mae Snoops concerning a sale of furniture from the governor's mansion during the Hughes administration.

Mrs. Snoops, Gov. William Donald Schaefer's longtime companion and the chief overseer of a recent mansion refurbishment, told reporters Thursday that numerous furnishings had been sold at auction during the administration of former Gov. Harry R. Hughes.

Among other things, Mrs. Snoops alleged that the items were sold at a fraction of their value by C. G. Sloan & Co., a Washington area auction house, and that she had "no idea" what happened to the proceeds.

Yesterday, a review of legislative audits of the executive department dating back to 1980 provided no evidence of unaccounted funds from a furniture sale that Mrs. Snoops alleged raised more than $9,000.

Dennis M. Sweeney, deputy state attorney general, said he was unaware of any problems involving a mansion furniture sale and had received no information to warrant an investigation.

Mr. Hughes, who was contacted by telephone Thursday during a Caribbean vacation, has called Mrs.Snoops' criticisms "outrageous, bush-league and trivial." He has agreed that there was a one-time sale of surplus furnishings but said a careful accounting was made of the proceeds.

Donald D. Webster, Sloan's president, said yesterday that he recalled selling items for the state during the Hughes administration but questioned whether any of the furnishings were very valuable.

"We didn't get anything good, I can tell you that," Mr. Webster said.

Mrs. Snoops and Governor Schaefer were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Welford McLellan, a spokesman for the governor, said that Mrs. Snoops had indicated that she felt "not at liberty" to share additional information about the auction.

Paul E. Schurick, the governor's press secretary, also pointed out that Mrs. Snoops did not allege any criminal wrongdoing by the former governor.

"She was just stating a fact -- that she didn't know where the money went," Mr. Schurick said.

Stiles T. Colwill, a former chief curator with the Maryland Historical Society who assisted Mr. Hughes' wife, Patricia, with an earlier redecoration of the mansion, said that the surplus furniture was "crap" and that proceeds paid for new shutters that still being used on the mansion's second floor.

Mrs. Snoops' comments concerning the furniture sale came at a meeting of the Governor's Mansion Trust, a committee that lTC oversees the mansion's seven public rooms. At that same meeting, she also announced plans to remove 85 percent to 90 percent of the mansion's furnishings and make them available to other institutions.

Those furnishings were purchased by the Governor's Mansion Foundation, a non-profit group that has lent many of the rugs, draperies and other furnishings for the public rooms.

Mrs. Snoops is one of five members of the foundation's board of directors.

Mrs. Snoops said her decision to have the furnishings removed and replaced with "seedy" items dating to the Hughes years was motivated, in part, by criticism her work had received from legislators and from the press.

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