'The prince of perks'? Schaefer gets crowned Aides call Money magazine's ranking a 'cheap shot' against frugal governor

September 17, 1993|By John W. Frece | John W. Frece,Staff Writer

Who is this man Money magazine is talking about, the man with the six-digit salary, and the yacht, and the spacious mansion, and the sky box at the stadium -- the man the magazine is calling "the most pampered prince of perks"?

Could it possibly be Maryland's own William Donald Schaefer? Could it be the 71-year-old governor who prefers his humble West Baltimore rowhouse to the museum-like Georgian mansion must live in in Annapolis, and whose favorite vacation spot for years was a house trailer in Ocean City? Yes, it could. After a seven-month, nationwide investigation, Money magazine in its October issue has concluded that Mr. Schaefer enjoys the costliest combination of pay, pension and perks of any governor in the nation -- a package the magazine claims is worth $2.3 million a year.

It says he accepts a higher salary -- $120,000 -- than any other governor, that the budget to run the mansion exceeds $700,000 a year, and that it costs another $159,000 just to maintain the state yacht, even though the boat hasn't been taken out to sea in nearly two years.

More than half of the package of "perks" ascribed to Mr. Schaefer, however, is for the contingent of 17 state troopers who provide his security -- valued by the magazine at $1.2 million. The magazine added in another $79,000 for pension benefits, its estimate of the annual cost of the 50-percent-of-salary pension Mr. Schaefer will receive once he leaves office. Mr. Schaefer's press secretary, Page W. Boinest, said the governor was in West Virginia on state business and was unavailable for comment. As might be expected, Ms. Boinest had some unkind words for the magazine's conclusions.

"They compared apples and oranges, and the way it is miscalculated, it was unfair, misleading and a cheap shot," she said.

Ms. Boinest said the article blamed the governor for "fixtures of the office," such as the yacht and the mansion, which were there before he arrived in Annapolis and will be there when he leaves.

"Unfortunately, if you don't know Governor Schaefer, you wouldn't get the sense of him that he is the original McDonald's customer," she said. "He doesn't live like a king, which they are suggesting."

Indeed, Mr. Schaefer, when he has his druthers, eats his meals at fast food joints rather than posh restaurants. His idea of a good investment is a townhouse across the street from the smoke stacks of a power plant. His own friends chide him to replace suits obviously purchased in an earlier era.

Ms. Boinest also said that labeling a governor's security as "a perk" in these violent times was plainly wrong. The magazine's estimate for the cost of running the mansion, she said, was overstated by at least $100,000.

As for the high salary, she noted that the salaries set for three other governors (New York, New Jersey and Washington) actually are higher than Maryland's, but the incumbents voluntarily accept less pay. Mr. Schaefer accepts the full $120,000 annual salary established by an independent commission in 1990.

Mr. Schaefer has not been aboard the state yacht, the Maryland Independence, since October 1991, Ms. Boinest pointed out. The vessel has been mothballed since then.

"He has never used it for personal pleasure," Ms. Boinest said, noting that it was primarily used by other state agencies to take official visitors out on the Chesapeake Bay.

Referring to the yacht and the governor's box at the Camden Yards stadium, Ms. Boinest said, "Maryland is being penalized because we live in a real nice state: We live on the water and we happen to have a professional ball team."

The governor's staff has been bracing for the Money magazine story for months and was prepared for a double whammy last night when ABC newsman Sam Donaldson issued his own blast at the alleged excesses of the Schaefer administration on the show "Prime Time Live."

The ABC program prepared its piece in connection with the Money magazine article. Ms. Boinest said that Mr. Donaldson recently "ambushed" the governor, showing up at a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a Maryland clothing manufacturer to demand that Mr. Schaefer justify $1.7 million in mansion renovations that were made during his first term in office.

Unfazed, Mr. Schaefer reportedly fingered the lapel of Mr. Donaldson's jacket and suggested it was time the newsman step inside the haber--ery for a replacement. Later, in footage that aired last night, Mr. Donaldson asked the governor if he thought spending $1.7 million on the mansion was escessive.

"No, I do not. . . . It had been allowed to deteriorate," Mr. Schaefer replied.

Mr. Schaefer was not the only chief executive the magazine picked on. In the article, entitled "Stately Splendor: How Our Governors Live It Up," reporter Walter L. Updegrave also noted that New Jersey Gov. Jim Florio enjoys the benefits of two state-owned Jersey Shore beach houses and that New York Gov. Mario Cuomo earned $273,700 in speaking fees last year.

The magazine described Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus as "the most frugal," although Mr. Updegrave said that was based primarily on his low salary ($75,000), that he flies coach instead of first class, and that he lives in his own home.

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