Audit criticizes spending on Governor's mansion

July 17, 1991|By Doug Birch and Sandy Banisky | Doug Birch and Sandy Banisky,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- A new legislative audit criticizes spending on the Governor's Mansion, challenging financial and inventory records as spotty and questioning the use of state money to pay for expensive table silver, gift certificates and several social events, including a baby shower.

The audit, a copy of which was obtained yesterday by The Sun, also questions the donation of $22,000 worth of mansion furnishings, including silk draperies and carpets, to a private, non-profit group, saying the action was never approved by the state Board of Public Works as required.

Auditors noted that the law gives Gov. William Donald Schaefer almost unlimited discretion in spending mansion funds. But they said that certain purchases "appeared to be unrelated" to the stated purpose of the money allotted annually to buy materials and supplies for operation and maintenance of the mansion.

The audit does not focus on the sometimes controversial physical improvements to the mansion made since Mr. Schaefer took office in 1987. Instead, it reviews spending for operations at the mansion, including bookkeeping practices.

Among the items questioned by auditors were $82,308 worth of gifts, including imprinted tote bags and money clips, that were given to guests at the mansion.

Mansion funds, the audit found, were also used to buy $1,345 worth of gift certificates that were handed out at the discretion of Mr. Schaefer, with no accounting of who received them.

The audit questioned the purchase of $10,762 worth of silverware -- including 12 plates that cost $5,100 and 61 fruit knives at a cost of $2,855.

The audit, done every two years by the legislature's Department of Fiscal Services, has not yet been made public. The document focuses on spending controls and does not provide certain details -- including the names of the non-profit groups involved or names of the guests of honor at birthday dinners or the baby shower.

Previous audits have raised questions about a practice of Hilda Mae Snoops, the governor's longtime companion who is the state's official hostess, of charging various groups for staging receptions at the mansion, then using that money to supplement the General Assembly's $60,000 annual allowance for mansion operations. That issue surfaced again in this report.

William S. Ratchford II, director of fiscal services, would not discuss the audit last night, saying it had not been released to the public and adding that he could not provide details on the issues it raises.

The report was forwarded to the governor two weeks ago for comment as part of a larger audit of the governor's office.

In February, as auditors tried to visit parts of the mansion to conduct an inventory of furnishings, Mrs. Snoops reacted angrily.

In talking with reporters, she threatened to have all privately owned furnishings on loan to the state removed from the mansion property. The items were worth $835,142, the audit said. "I've been rebuffed continually by the press and by delegates and senators who want a little cheap publicity," said Mrs. Snoops, who has managed the mansion since shortly after Mr. Schaefer became governor.

After negotiations between the auditors and Mrs. Snoops, she agreed to have her staff conduct an inventory in the mansion's private quarters.

But according to the new audit, no complete inventory of the items exists, making it harder to distinguish between Mr. Schaefer's personal property and the state's.

Since Mr. Schaefer took office, at least $500,000 has been raised by his political allies for the Governor's Mansion Foundation.

Governor's Mansion renovation costs

More the $1.7 million in public money was spent renovating the excutive mansion and grounds betweeen 1987 and 1991. Here are some of the items that were refurbished.

Rebuild chimney.. .. .. .. .. .. .. $4,415

* Restore cupola.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .15,055

* Replace windows.. .. .. .. .. .. ..165,261

* Waterproof brick exterior.. .. .. ..17,960

* Replace front doors.. .. .. .. .. ...6,569

* Build ramp for handicapped.. .. .. 108,499

Landscape yard.. .. .. .. .. .. .. 575,797

* Install walkway lighting.. .. .. ...47,366

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