McLean coverage attacked

December 25, 1993|By Timothy B. Wheeler | Timothy B. Wheeler,Staff Writer

The lawyer for Baltimore Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean yesterday brushed aside the mayor's suggestion that she consider resigning in the wake of misconduct allegations mounting against her.

Instead, William H. Murphy Jr. lashed out at what he called irresponsible and racially divisive news media coverage of the remarks Mrs. McLean made this week when she said she was stepping aside until the investigation of her activities is finished.

Appearing without his client at a news conference in his Mount Vernon law office, Mr. Murphy denied that Mrs. McLean ever said or implied that the investigation of her activities is racially motivated.

"Jackie McLean has never blamed her current predicament on race," Mr. Murphy said. "She will never do that."

He deflected all questions about whether the comptroller would resign or about any of the allegations against her by repeatedly saying, "Jackie McLean is considering all of her options and will continue to do so in the days ahead."

After additional allegations against Mrs. McLean came to light this week, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said Thursday that "she probably ought to give careful consideration to possibly stepping down."

Rather than respond to that, Mr. Murphy attacked newspaper and television coverage of the comptroller.

He charged that at least one news article and two columns appearing in The Sun since Mrs. McLean took an indefinite, paid leave of absence Monday have incorrectly accused her of blaming her troubles on the fact that she is black.

"You misquoted her," Mr. Murphy said to the assembled reporters. "And what you said about her was neither accurate nor fair. You falsely ascribed to her motives that she did not have and statements that she did not make."

He also complained, as Mrs. McLean did this week, that Mrs. McLean and her family were being "hounded" by broadcast and newspaper reporters.

Mr. Murphy handed out copies of the two-page statement Mrs. McLean read when she announced Monday that she was stepping aside.

In it, she said she was taking leave because she feared the controversy swirling around her obscured "important issues the city needs to address." She mentioned granting more city contracts to women and minorities, reducing property taxes and lowering the black unemployment rate, among others.

But she also defended her record and declared she has "some unfinished business" in the comptroller's office. She accused City Auditor Allan L. Reynolds, who is white, of trying to promote white male employees over more qualified black workers.

Mrs. McLean concluded her statement by saying that the public, "especially members of the African-American community," must understand how important it is to have people like her in office, and that they "need to know who is really on their side."

Mr. Murphy said those remarks were not intended to blame her problems on her race, or to rally support for herself simply because she is black. She was trying to remind the news media and public that, regardless of what happens to her, fiscal and racial issues remain to be dealt with, he said.

Files under scrutiny

Meanwhile, it was learned yesterday that several filing cabinets full of documents were removed from the comptroller's office Thursday by investigators for State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli.

A Baltimore grand jury and the city Board of Ethics are investigating allegations that Mrs. McLean slipped a $1 million .. lease past the Board of Estimates in October for a building owned by her family's defunct travel agency. The contract later was rescinded after her interest in the deal was uncovered.

Last week, news stories raised questions about a mysterious employee hired by Mrs. McLean to do public relations, but who apparently did no work and never showed up at the comptroller's office.

This week, payments of more than $22,000 to that employee, Michele McCloud, were traced to two bank checking accounts, one of which Mrs. McLean had opened.

The checks were mailed to an address occupied by a beauty salon owned by Mrs. McLean's sister.

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