Clarke calls on McLean to justify mystery worker

December 20, 1993|By Kim Clark and JoAnna Daemmrich | Kim Clark and JoAnna Daemmrich,Staff Writers

Baltimore Council President Mary Pat Clarke called on the comptroller yesterday to publicly explain her office's payments to a mysterious city employee who apparently did no work.

Mrs. Clarke also said the city solicitor will issue a report early this week outlining all available information on the missing employee.

Saying she's deeply disturbed by the controversy engulfing the comptroller's office, Mrs. Clarke joined the mayor in urging Jacqueline F. McLean to break her silence.

Mrs. McLean, the third-most powerful elected official in city government, has come under scrutiny in recent weeks amid allegations that she tried to help sell a building she owns with her husband by steering a city lease to the prospective buyer.

She also hired a public relations aide at $21.73 an hour who, other members of Comptroller McLean's staff have said, never showed up at the office or produced any work.

Neither Mrs. McLean nor her attorney, William H. Murphy Jr., returned telephone messages yesterday.

Previously, Mrs. McLean has said that she made a mistake in not revealing her interest in the building.

Last Tuesday, Mr. Murphy held a news conference to announce that Mrs. McLean would not comment on the allegations.

On Wednesday and Thursday, Mrs. McLean declined to answer reporters' questions about the whereabouts of the missing employee.

"I don't like this. I hate it because all of city government suffers when something like this happens," Mrs. Clarke said.

The council president also insisted yesterday that she did the right thing after discovering the comptroller's family owned an .. office building that was to be rented to the city Health Department.

Mrs. Clarke has faced criticism recently for her failure to do more to stop the lease once she knew of the conflict.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke led a vote to rescind the lease on Nov. 24, shortly after discovering on his own about Mrs. McLean's conflict of interest. He said Mrs. Clarke never told him of her concerns.

Mrs. Clarke said she discovered the McLeans' ownership of the Federal Hill building half an hour after the Board of Estimates approved the lease on the morning of Oct. 27.

Mrs. Clarke said no one on the five-member board had an opportunity to learn about the lease ahead of time because the comptroller had stopped attending discussion sessions that, until this month, had been held before board meetings. And the lease was introduced at the end of the list of emergency items that were not on the regular agenda published in advance.

The unanimously approved lease would have shifted the city's nursing service from rent-free offices at the Montebello Rehabilitation Hospital to $106,000-a-year space at the former headquarters of the McLeans' now-defunct travel agency.

Curious about the whereabouts of the building after voting to approve the lease, Mrs. Clarke researched the address after leaving the board meeting. She discovered that the building was owned by the McLeans' business, Four Seas & Seven Winds Inc.

Minutes later, Mrs. Clarke said, she informed mayoral aide Wendell Sutton. He in turn asked the comptroller to explain Mrs. Clarke's objections, according to Clinton R. Coleman, a spokesman for Mayor Schmoke.

Mrs. McLean told Mr. Sutton she would discuss the issue with the mayor, Mr. Coleman said.

But Mr. Schmoke said the comptroller didn't tell him about her stake in the building until the information became public last month.

Asked why she did not inform the mayor about the lease, Mrs. Clarke said she assumed his staff member had done so.

"If I had someone sitting in there for me, that person would be in my face five minutes after the meeting ended," she said. "In my face."

Mrs. Clarke said that after she notified Mr. Sutton, she rushed back to the board room to reverse her vote.

She also says she sent a memo that afternoon notifying the rest of the five-member board that she had switched her vote to "no."

However, City Solicitor Neal M. Janey said yesterday that neither he nor the mayor ever received the memo. Both are on the Board of Estimates.

In addition, he said, Mrs. Clarke's actions had been inadequate.

As president of the Board of Estimates, Mrs. Clarke should have immediately informed the mayor himself of the conflict and gathered the members to rescind the lease, Mr. Janey said.

"She should have put this on the public record. This is a grave matter," Mr. Janey said.

Mrs. Clarke, who has been feuding with Mayor Schmoke for years, has announced she will challenge him for the mayoral job in the 1995 municipal election.

She may have let political concerns override her duty to protect the citizens of Baltimore, Mr. Janey said.

"This is a responsibility that transcends politics," Mr. Janey said.

Mr. Janey said that within 36 hours of his discovery of Mrs. McLean's conflict on Nov. 22, he had informed the mayor, and helped arrange the repeal of the lease.

He said it took another two weeks or so for him and the mayor to launch an ethics investigation of Mrs. McLean's actions because his research was delayed by the Thanksgiving holiday.

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