Schaefer memo appears aimed against Steinberg

March 16, 1991|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- Before leaving for war-torn Kuwait earlier this week, Gov. William Donald Schaefer fired off a shot of his own.

His target? It appears to have been his own lieutenant governor.

In an unorthodox, memorandum Tuesday to his Cabinet secretaries on the subject of the defeated Linowes commission tax restructuring plan, Mr. Schaefer underscored his growing rift with Lt. Gov. Melvin A. Steinberg.

He attached to the confidential memo, a copy of which was obtained by The Sun, copies of newspaper stories detailing Mr. Steinberg's disagreement with Mr. Schaefer over the Linowes proposal.

Also attached, but without explanation, was a reprint of the sectionof the state constitution that specifies the express powers granted to Maryland's governor and lieutenant governor.

Mr. Schaefer was out of the country and unavailable for comment, but his press secretary, Paul E. Schurick, said the memo was intended to demonstrate the governor's unwavering support for the Linowes tax plan.

"A week does not go by that the governor at a Cabinet meeting does not repeat the kind of comments that are in this memo to his Cabinet secretaries," Mr. Schurick said. "He knows the tax system needs to be restructured. He knows the current tax system is responsible for some very serious problems in Maryland, problems with funding state government programs."

But asked if the memorandum was also aimed at Mr. Steinberg for differing with the governor's all-or-nothing approach to the Linowes bill this session, Mr. Schurick said he would have no comment.

"I won't comment on intent," he said.

Mr. Schurick also said he would not speculate on why the governor saw fit to include with the memo a reprint of the constitutional duties of the governor and lieutenant governor.

Mr. Steinberg said he had not seen the memorandum, although he said he had heard rumors that such a document existed. He said he was surprised to hear it was addressed to all Cabinet members since he regularly attended Cabinet meetings and considered himself an active member of the Cabinet.

"It is very confusing to me," he said. "It would seem to me that as a matter of courtesy, they would have sent me a copy. It looks to me like it was a secretive memorandum."

Mr. Steinberg acknowledged that before leaving for Kuwait Wednesday, Mr. Schaefer did not sign the customary letter clarifying that Mr. Steinberg would be the acting governor in his absence.

"Every trip he has taken from the first day he was in office, the letter was sent to him, signed, and he returned it. This time it was different," Mr. Steinberg said.

Mr. Schurick said that he was not aware the letter had not been signed this time and that he therefore could not comment.

"It made no difference personally to me," Mr. Steinberg said, "but I hope we have no emergency where the authority of the acting governor would be challenged."

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