McLean is indicted on 5 counts

February 26, 1994|By JoAnna Daemmrich and Kim Clark | JoAnna Daemmrich and Kim Clark,Sun Staff Writers

Information in an article yesterday about Baltimore Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean's purchase of parquet flooring came from sources close to the investigation of her case, not, as was reported, from the manager of Pikesville Lumber Co.

The Sun regrets the error.

City Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean, the financial guardian of Baltimore government, was indicted yesterday on charges of stealing thousands of dollars in public funds and steering a lucrative city lease to a family-owned building.

A grand jury accused Mrs. McLean of felony theft and misconduct in office for allegedly authorizing $25,189 in payments to a fictitious consultant called Michele McCloud and to a phony organization.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

She also was charged with misconduct for allegedly trying to arrange surreptitiously a $1 million lease of the former headquarters of Four Seas & Seven Winds Inc., the defunct travel business that she and her husband, James H. McLean, operated.

Mrs. McLean, who holds the third-most-powerful office in Baltimore, withdrew money from bank accounts under the name of the nonexistent Resources for Women to pay credit card bills for dinners at popular restaurants, lingerie and flowers, according to sources familiar with the financial transactions.

Robert Handel, manager of Pikesville Lumber Co., which sold her 20 boxes of parquet flooring for one of her homes, said a check from one of those bank accounts went to pay for parquet flooring for one of her homes.

She also used a city purchasing order to get a discount, Mr. Handel said.

If convicted of the theft charge, Mrs. McLean could be sentenced to up to 15 years in prison, fined $1,000 and ordered to make restitution.

Penalties for the misconduct charge are not specified by statute.

"Obviously, this is a personal tragedy for her and her family," Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke said. "The city will go on. Government is moving along, but clearly you have to recognize that this is a matter of great personal disappointment to her and her many supporters."

Mr. Schmoke, while expressing concern over the situation, said he has made no decision about impeaching Mrs. McLean and that he wants to discuss the indictment with Maryland's special prosecutor.

"Now that the charges have been brought, I would hope that she would sit down and evaluate her situation with her family and decide how to proceed," Mr. Schmoke said.

Neither Mrs. McLean nor her attorney, William H. Murphy Jr., would comment yesterday. The comptroller was to be served with a criminal summons and ordered to appear at a March 22 arraignment in Baltimore Circuit Court. She will not be arrested or required to post bail.

For the past two months, Mrs. McLean, 49, has been silent about the controversy engulfing her. When she went on a leave of absence Dec. 20, she defended her campaign for more diversity government and business, citing, for example, a law requiring that 20 percent of city contracts go to minority-owned companies.

Her comments came in response to a barrage of questions about her activities and the criminal investigation by State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli. Payments on her $53,000 annual salary are being held in escrow.

Yesterday, the 23-member Baltimore grand jury reconvened for the first time in two weeks. The predominantly black and female grand jury spent several hours deliberating before turning in the indictments at noon.

'Just the first step'

Mr. Montanarelli declined to answer questions about whether the city money allegedly stolen had been traced to the comptroller personally.

"This is just the first step," he said.

Cristina Gutierrez, Mr. Murphy's law partner, met with Mr. Montanarelli briefly about 12:30 p.m. She turned her back when a reporter asked for a comment.

City officials expressed little surprise at the indictments but emphasized that government would continue to run smoothly.

"It's an indictment, not a conviction," said Marie C. Henderson, the public information officer for the comptroller's office. "We'll continue to be operating and doing business as usual and waiting to see the natural course of the judicial system. I think that this happened at all is a tragedy itself."

Council President Mary Pat Clarke declined to comment. Other council members said they were relieved that the grand jury process was over and that they were eager for the McLean case to end.

"It's in everyone's best interest to end this as quickly as possible," said Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, a 2nd District Democrat.

A political unknown who rose swiftly to one of the top seats in Baltimore government, Mrs. McLean defined her public image by her business success.

She and her husband ran a successful travel agency in Federal Hill in the 1980s, a business that afforded them an increasingly affluent lifestyle.

The McLeans own an elegantly appointed three-story condominium at the Colonnade and a beach house in Delaware.

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