Banker lambastes Artscape's creators in court

April 08, 1993|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Staff Writer

One of Baltimore's leading bankers yesterday testified that the creators of the Artscape festival were "morally bankrupt" because they had raised nearly $700,000 for the summer festival when William Donald Schaefer was mayor and refused to turn it over to the city after Kurt L. Schmoke became mayor.

H. Furlong Baldwin, chairman of Mercantile-Safe Deposit and Trust Co., assailed the festival's creators during testimony in Baltimore Circuit Court. He was the first witness in a trial sparked by a lawsuit the Schmoke administration filed against Baltimore Arts Festival Inc., a nonprofit corporation set up by Mr. Schaefer's mayoral administration.

Schmoke administration lawyers filed a lawsuit to recover the money four years ago this week. A ruling earlier this year by the Court of Appeals sent the case back to circuit court for trial.

The nonprofit group is headed by Jody Albright, Artscape's founder, who went with Mr. Schaefer to work in Annapolis as his arts adviser after he became governor in 1987. Mr. Schaefer has been subpoenaed to testify next week.

"We find it appalling that we were treated in such a cavalier way," said Mr. Baldwin, referring to his bank and other corporate donors who assumed their donations were spent for the arts fair during the years they were given in the early 1980s.

Instead, Mr. Baldwin learned recently from news accounts that many donations had accumulated into a large "endowment" fund out of the city's reach.

"The money got wheels and went to Annapolis," Mr. Baldwin testified.

"We were misled. And the fact that someone hasn't just written a check and given it back [to the city] is morally bankrupt," he said.

Mr. Baldwin, who was subpoenaed by the Schmoke administration, became combative under cross-examination from Mrs. Albright's lawyer, William A. McDaniel Jr. The banker often refused to answer the lawyer's questions directly, but instead preferred to lecture the attorney.

At one point the banker angrily said that Mr. Schaefer's good reputation among the business community had been "tarnished" Mrs. Albright's refusal to turn over the money to the city.

Mr. Baldwin also told Mr. McDaniel that of all the 700 annual charitable contributions his bank makes, "Only with you and your client have we had this trouble."

Rouse Co. President Anthony W. Deering testified that Artscape was a city-run festival even though it was run by a nonprofit group. His comments came during cross-examination by the city's lawyer, Burton H. Levin.

Mr. Deering is member of the board of Baltimore Arts Festival Inc. and helped raise money for the event for several years. He said he did not approve of the money's transfer to a second nonprofit corporation, the Maryland Community Foundation, after Mr. Schaefer became governor.

"The donors thought this money was going to Artscape, and it's a city activity," he said.

Mr. McDaniel is attempting to show that Artscape was always run and controlled by a nonprofit corporation and that Mrs. Albright and other former Artscape officials have the right to control the money in an endowment fund.

The arts group has disbursed small annual grants to the festival since Mr. Schmoke became mayor, but it has refused to turn over all the money.

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