Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke stepped up the pressure on beleaguered Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean yesterday, saying she should consider resigning.
"As new developments come to light, I think she ought to re-evaluate her situation," Mr. Schmoke said. "She probably ought to give careful, careful consideration to possibly stepping down."
Mr. Schmoke also said he is beginning to research the legal issues that could be raised if he sought to impeach Mrs. McLean. "As I look at the situation, I think we ought to at least begin preparing for the possibility of removal hearings," he said.
The mayor sent a letter to City Council President Mary Pat Clarke asking her to urge council members to temper their public comments about Mrs. McLean because they would have to vote on her removal should she be impeached.
"If we invoke the removal process, you and your colleagues on the council will be sitting as judges," the letter said. "The rules that apply to regular judges with respect to bias, impartiality and conflict of interest would be likewise applied to you and your colleagues."
Efforts to reach Mrs. Clarke yesterday were unsuccessful.
The mayor said he asked City Solicitor Neal M. Janey to begin researching the legal ramifications of impeaching the comptroller.
The city charter says that the comptroller can be removed by a majority council vote after a hearing on charges brought by the mayor.
While the mayor said that Mrs. McLean should consider resigning, he said he is not ready to move to force her removal. He said he will wait for the state special prosecutor and the city Ethics Board to complete their investigations before deciding on a course of action.
This week, Mrs. McLean began a paid leave in the face of investigations by the state special prosecutor and the city Ethics Board into her possible misconduct as comptroller. The mayor dTC said he encouraged Mrs. McLean to take the leave because "it was in the best interests of the city."
Since she began that leave, new revelations have surfaced almost daily about the McLean investigation -- revelations that Mr. Schmoke said should prompt her to think about stepping down.
"It is now time for her to re-evaluate her position once again," Mr. Schmoke said.
In making his comments, the mayor acknowledged it might not be in Mrs. McLean's interest to resign.
"She'll have to work with her attorneys to consider the ramifications of that from a personal point of view, plus from the point of view of the investigation that is on-going," Mr. Schmoke said. "I guess she would be worried that a resignation would be viewed by some as an admission of wrong-doing."
Efforts to reach Mrs. McLean and her attorneys to comment about the mayor's remarks were unsuccessful.
The mayor yesterday also dismissed Mrs. McLean's assertions that the investigations are racially motivated. "This case is not a matter of race," said Mr. Schmoke, who like Mrs. McLean, is black. "It is a matter of trust."
Mr. Schmoke said he and other city officials have been receiving calls from constituents who are angry about the fact that Mrs. McLean will continue to draw her $53,000-a-year salary as long as she remains comptroller.
"I don't think anybody is comfortable with it. As a matter of law, we really can't prevent that unless charges are preferred," Mr. Schmoke said. If criminal charges are filed, he added, "this whole thing about her salary is going to be re-evaluated."
Mrs. 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 Mrs. 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 $22,000 from the city.
Mr. Schmoke maintained that he did not want to prejudge Mrs. McLean. But he added: "As a former prosecutor, as I look at her situation, it looks like she is going from bad to worse."