Shirley A. Williams took over as acting city comptroller yesterday, saying that there was "no widespread involvement" by her or other staff members in the controversial contracts that led Jacqueline F. McLean to take a leave of absence.
And Ms. Williams said she would try to revive the public's faith in the comptroller's office.
Controversy surrounding Mrs. McLean's attempt to lease to the city a family-owned building and her approval of a contract for a no-show employee "have distracted" other members of the comptroller's office, Ms. Williams said.
"We want to get back to work so that people will understand that we are a staff of professionals and we are worth the public's trust," she said.
Baltimore's comptroller, the third-highest official in city government, is one of the five members of the Board of Estimates -- the body that approves all major city contracts. The comptroller, who is elected every four years, also oversees city real estate deals and the auditors who examine municipal
Ms. Williams quickly played down a recent remark by Mrs. McLean.
In a news conference Monday, Mrs. McLean had warned that her departure would allow City Auditor Allan L. Reynolds, to "carry out plans to promote white males who are not certified public accountants and skip over qualified CPAs."
Ms. Williams said yesterday that she would not interfere in Mr. Reynolds' promotion plans.
Mr. Reynolds is white. Mrs. McLean and Ms. Williams are black.
In addition, Ms. Williams said she would attend the Board of Estimates' weekly "mini-meetings," at which contracts are explained in detail.
Mrs. McLean stopped attending the meetings in September, and shortly afterward pushed through the board two controversial contracts -- the Health Department lease on her family's Federal Hill building, and a contract renewal for no-show employee Michele McCloud.
Ms. Williams, who was chosen by Mrs. McLean to serve as deputy comptroller in 1992, has worked, on and off, since 1979 for the city government -- a total of 13 years.
Before joining the comptroller's staff, she served for three years as executive assistant to George Balog, Baltimore's director of public works.
Mr. Balog, who has known Ms. Williams for about 20 years, described her as "a very reliable and competent person."
In the late 1980s, she was vice president of the Ft. McHenry Contracting Co., a now-defunct minority-owned construction company. Her boss there, Hector Vinas, described Ms. Williams yesterday as "terrific . . . loyal, from top to toe."
Ms. Williams, who was born in Albany, Ga., has a bachelor's and master's degree in English Literature.
Her law degree is from Ohio State University.