Schmoke assails newspaper's report that he didn't disclose personal loans

May 13, 1994|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writer

A visibly annoyed Baltimore Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke dismissed yesterday a weekly newspaper article on his personal finances as a "cheap shot" and said there was nothing improper in his failure to report two loans on disclosure forms.

Mr. Schmoke said he was advised by the city ethics administrator that he did not violate any laws by failing to list two second mortgages that he and his wife, Patricia, took out on their Ashburton home in the 1980s. Both were repaid years ago.

The loans were the focus of a front-page article two weeks ago in the Harbor Crescent, a new community newspaper in South Baltimore run by Mark Adams.

Mayor Schmoke called the negative publicity an apparent political attack, saying Mr. Adams is a close friend and campaign worker of Council President Mary Pat Clarke. Mrs. Clarke, who plans to challenge the mayor in next year's election, has clashed frequently with the mayor in recent months.

"It's probably an attempt to start nibbling away at a character issue," Mr. Schmoke said. "I think that generally since I've been in office, whether people agree with me or not on policy issues, I've gotten high marks from the public on character questions. So if I discover one of my opponents fed him this data, she will have hell to pay."

Mr. Adams and Mrs. Clarke denied that she had any involvement with the article.

"I take exception to responding to an article by saying the guy who wrote it is a friend of Mary Pat's," Mrs. Clarke said. "Let the mayor answer what it said."

The mayor has never listed the second mortgages made by First National Bank on city or state financial disclosure forms. One for $50,000 was taken out in 1986 and repaid the next year; the other, for $40,000, was obtained in 1987 and repaid in 1992.

Mr. Schmoke said later through his spokesman, Clinton R. Coleman, that his wife handled the loans and he did not know exactly what the money was spent on. Nevertheless, Mr. Schmoke said it made no difference because "by no stretch did it involve conflicts of interest."

City and state ethics laws require elected officials to list all their real estate interests annually.

However, Bernard "Buzz" Murphy, the administrator of Baltimore's ethics program, blamed himself for the error. He said he incorrectly advised the mayor that he did not have to list the second mortgages because they were not required until the law was changed in 1986. The city did not update its financial disclosure forms to include loans of $5,000 or more until 1989.

"I told him he was in compliance," Mr. Murphy said, adding that he had not advised any other city officials to report second mortgages.

A week after the newspaper article was published, James I. Cabezas, an investigator for Maryland's special prosecutor, pulled the city and state records. State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli said yesterday that it's not uncommon for his staff to review such forms.

Mayor Schmoke, clearly frustrated at what he considered a personal attack, said he found it odd that Mr. Adams had unearthed old loans by researching land records.

"I've tried to keep my family and my family finances out of politics," he said. "I run clean campaigns. I talk about the issues. And if I ever find out that my opponent is in some way starting to run a dirty campaign against me and my family, I will come down on them very strongly."

Mrs. Clarke countered that she, too, is running on the issues. "I do not control the press."

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