Embattled McLean takes leave from city comptroller job

December 20, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

Embattled Baltimore City Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean is taking an indefinite leave of absence from her job, effective immediately, the mayor announced today.

A lawyer for Mrs. McLean informed city officials this morning of the comptroller's plans, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said at a news conference. She will continue to receive her $53,000-a-year salary "at this point," the mayor said, adding, "All of this is subject to our review."

Ms. McLean is under investigation by Maryland's special prosecutor for allegations that she steered a city lease to a Federal Hill building that she and her husband own. The lease would have boosted the value of the building, which was for sale, by at least $200,000.

Investigators also are looking into Ms. McLean's hiring of a public relations aide, who, other members of the comptroller's office have said, never showed up at the office or produced any work. The employee received some $15,000 from the city.

As Mrs. McLean's leave was announced, a state grand jury reconvened this morning in Baltimore to continue its probe. The city Board of Ethics also is investigating Mrs. McLean's actions.

Mrs. McLean has not commented on the allegations.

While Mrs. McLean is on leave, Shirley A. Williams, who has been deputy comptroller, will take control of the office.

"This is the right step to have taken at this point," the mayor said. The leave, he added, will leave would help assure resident that "government operations can proceed effectively."

The mayor invited City Council President Mary Pat Clarke to join him in making the announcement. "I think Madame Comptroller has taken the appropriate steps," she said.

Both Mr. Schmoke and Ms. Clarke agreed that it was still too soon to take steps to remove Ms. McLean from her office. Under the city charter, the comptroller may be removed for negligence of duty by a majority vote of the City Council, following proceedings initiated by the mayor.

But Mr. Schmoke noted that the "situation looks extremely serious from our point of view" and said investigations into Ms. McLean's actions by the ethics board and the special state prosecutor were "now proceeding in a very coordinated fashion."

Three members of the city police department have been assigned to assist in the investigation, the mayor said.

Both Ms. Clarke and Mr. Schmoke downplayed the recent war of words between Ms. Clarke and City Solicitor Neal M. Janey about whether the council president did enough to stop the lease once she knew about Ms. McLean's ownership interest in it.

"I think we need to move forward, not backwards," Ms. Clarke said.

Marie Henderson, who handles public relations for the comptroller's office, said, "I felt that [Mrs. McLean] would do the right thing." She said the leave is necessary "for the time being, because I think the office of the comptroller is bigger than one person. As much as we like the person, we have to protect the integrity of the office."

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