Checks to city worker stopped

December 18, 1993|By Kim Clark and JoAnna Daemmrich | Kim Clark and JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writers

The mayor of Baltimore stopped payments yesterday to a mysterious city employee and called on Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean to break her silence about the controversy engulfing her office.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said the city deserves an explanation about Mrs. McLean's hiring of a public relations worker who was paid $21.73 an hour but apparently never showed up at the office or did any work.

"Although I understand Ms. McLean's attorney's desire regarding his client, I really think it's time for these matters to be addressed publicly," the mayor said through his spokesman, Clinton R. Coleman.

"At this point, no one has been able to produce Michele McCloud," the mayor added. "If this is a fictitious person, then what we may be dealing with here is criminal fraud."

The comptroller and her attorney, William H. Murphy Jr., have not answered questions about the employee, who is listed on city contracts as Michele D. McCloud.

City workers, including the woman who handles public relations for the comptroller's office, said this week they had never seen Ms. McCloud or any work produced by her.

Mrs. McLean has not explained why the employee's checks were sent to Salon Me'Chelle at 5401 Park Heights Ave., a beauty parlor owned by the comptroller's sister and brother-in-law.

She also would not answer why the Social Security number on the payments matches -- except for the last digit -- that of her daughter Michelle.

Mr. Murphy called a news conference earlier this week to announce that Mrs. McLean and her husband, James, would remain silent during a grand jury investigation into allegations that they tried to lease a building they own to the city Health Department.

That investigation has been broadened to include the McCloud contract.

Mr. Murphy has not responded to calls or hand-delivered notes over the past three days.

From the city solicitor to jewelry store clerks, much of Baltimore searched yesterday for the real Ms. McCloud, who received about $15,000 from the city in the past year.

City Solicitor Neal M. Janey launched a search for the woman yesterday while halting any further payments to Ms. McCloud.

The last biweekly check of $1,303 was issued Dec. 7, City Hall sources said yesterday.

It was mailed to Salon Me'Chelle but apparently not endorsed.

On Thursday, city officials had thought that the last check had been mailed in October.

Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, a 2nd District Democrat, said he was stopped by strangers on the street and even a jewelry store clerk who was helping him select a Christmas present to ask about Ms. McCloud and the comptroller.

"The search is on," Mr. Ambridge said.

Councilwoman Agnes Welch, a 4th District Democrat, was awakened by constituents who called early yesterday morning to discuss the news of the mystery worker.

The only Michelle D. McCloud tracked down in Baltimore so far was astonished that her name suddenly was the center of controversy.

Contacted at her small second-floor apartment on McCulloh Street, Ms. McCloud, 35, said she has been unemployed for some time and never met the comptroller.

"I've never worked for the woman, and I don't know who she is," said Ms. McCloud, whose voter registration card carries her first name with only one "l."

She quickly wrote her name for a reporter, to show that her signature does not resemble those of Michele D. McCloud on contracts introduced by the comptroller in September 1992 and renewed this October.

Each time, the contract was presented at the last minute to the Board of Estimates, the five-member panel that approves all city contracts.

Both contracts were signed -- but the signature on the first one is markedly different from the renewal.

Ms. McCloud also said her Social Security number is not at all similar to the one on payment orders to the comptroller's "research analyst."

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