Top business, political leaders on list of potential witnesses in McLean case

March 19, 1994|By Kim Clark and JoAnna Daemmrich | Kim Clark and JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writers

Some of Baltimore's most important business and political leaders are potential witnesses in the criminal trial of Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean, who is accused of stealing more than $25,000 from the city and of misconduct in office.

In the first official filings in the case, Maryland's special prosecutor said that if the case goes to trial, he may call 42 witnesses to prove his case. Mrs. McLean was indicted on charges that she hired a phantom employee, Michele McCloud, and surreptitiously arranged a million-dollar city lease of a building that she and her husband own.

State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli also asked Mrs. McLean's attorneys for samples of her handwriting and a chance to examine reports by any experts the defense plans to call -- including results of any physical or mental examination.

The comptroller's lawyers denied interview requests for Mrs. McLean two months ago, saying that doctors had indicated her "emotional condition is too fragile for her to conduct any interview or answer any questions."

Mr. Montanarelli said yesterday his requests were "pro forma" and simply an attempt by the prosecution to anticipate defense strategy.

Mrs. McLean, the city's third most powerful official, is scheduled to be arraigned next week, the prosecutor said. Mrs. McLean, who is on an unpaid leave of absence, does not have to appear to hear the charges. But her attorneys are expected to enter a plea on her behalf.

Cristina Gutierrez, an attorney for Mrs. McLean, did not return reporters' phone calls asking for comment yesterday.

Leading the state's potential witness list is Mary Pat Clarke, who is president of the City Council and chairwoman of the Board of Estimates. The comptroller also sits on the board, a five-member panel that approves all city contracts and expenditures.

Also on the witness list is City Solicitor Neal M. Janey, another board member.

Mrs. Clarke and Mr. Janey have said they did not know Mrs. McLean was part owner of a Federal Hill building when they approved the lucrative, 10-year city lease last October. The city revoked the deal in November, after top city officials discovered that the two-story building was the former headquarters of Mrs. McLean's defunct travel agency.

Business leaders who may testify include Otis Warren Jr., a developer; Ackneil Muldrow II, president of the Development Credit Fund Inc.; Carolyn Burridge, a lobbyist; and Joseph Haskins, president of Harbor Bank.

Mr. Warren has said he arranged to purchase the McLeans' empty travel headquarters for $550,000 last fall after they assured him the city would lease it.

Mr. Muldrow is the head of a nonprofit group that lends money to minority-owned companies. It lent the McLeans' troubled travel agency $750,000 in 1992. Last October, the group threatened to foreclose on the couple if they didn't repay the balance of their loan; the McLeans repaid the loan late last year.

Ms. Burridge has said her signature was forged on documents used to open bank accounts in which city paychecks to Michele McCloud were deposited. Employees in the comptroller's office have said that they never saw the public relations consultant.

Mr. Haskins is president of the bank where the paychecks were deposited.

Also on the potential witness list are a dozen employees of the comptroller's office, ranging from Shirley Williams, the deputy comptroller who stepped in after Mrs. McLean went on leave Dec. 20, to a secretary in the real estate department.

The prosecutor said he also may ask for records and testimony from five local banks and a credit union, a Cleveland hotel and Mrs. McLean's chauffeur.

After at least four months of investigation, a special grand jury indicted Mrs. McLean Feb. 25 on charges of felony theft for allegedly authorizing a total of $25,189 in payments to Michele McCloud and to a phony organization called Resources for Women.

The grand jury also charged Mrs. McLean with four counts of misconduct in office for allegedly trying to arrange the lease of her building.

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.

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