Schaefer denounces critics of mansion costs

July 18, 1991|By Sandy Banisky | Sandy Banisky,Annapolis Bureau of The Sun

ANNAPOLIS -- Dismissing a new audit critical of spending at the Governor's Mansion as "the same old stuff," a furious Gov. William Donald Schaefer said yesterday he's "not going to pay any attention to it."

And Mr. Schaefer called a report in The Sun that detailed mansion renovation costs of $1.7 million in public funds "a distortion" and "a rehash." He pointedly referred to the paper as "The Sun tabloid."

The audit, prepared by the legislature's Department of Fiscal Services, criticized the financial record-keeping at the mansion and questioned use of state funds for such items as $82,000 in gifts handed to guests.

As for the renovations, Mr. Schaefer said yesterday that the mansion was badly in need of repair when he took office in 1987 and his longtime companion, Hilda Mae Snoops, became Maryland's official hostess. The state spending onmaintenance was entirely proper, the governor added.

Noting that The Sun listed such costs as $6,569 to replace the mansion's two 7 1/2 -foot-tall front doors, including $500 for five coats of primer paint, Mr. Schaefer said sarcastically, "That's where there could have been a mistake. I could have gone to Hechinger's."

Chandeliers, he said, had to be replaced because the old ones "had been taken out, by the way, by the [Maryland] Historical Society." The society had advised the administration of Gov. Harry Hughes on the furnishing of the mansion. Mrs. Snoops, however, disliked the changes and decided to decorate anew when Mr. Schaefer took office.

Mr. Schaefer said a half-dozen auditors had been dispatched to the mansion to harass him. Auditors last winter complained that they were not being allowed into some areas of the mansion to do an inventory.

Not so, the governor said yesterday. "Any time you want to come over and count my socks, you are invited."

The governor and Mrs. Snoops have drawn criticism before for the costly renovations, including such projects as installation of a fountain, a ramp for the handicapped, new bathrooms and new landscaping.

Some work was financed through a fund organized by Schaefer supporters. But Mr. Schaefer said yesterday he never tried to fool Marylanders into thinking renovations were being done at no cost to the taxpayer.

Asked about the cost of the renovations yesterday, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, said the $1.7 million spending at the mansion was "disturbing, to say the least."

"The governor's gone over the edge on this," Mr. Miller said. "He's let Mrs. Snoops go totally out of control. Any time anyone just questions the slightest thing about her, the governor just goes off the wall.

"I think it's ironic," Mr. Miller added, "that the same Baltimore Sun newspaper that had an article on $1.7 million on spending on the Governor's Mansion also had an article on compulsive shoppers."

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