McLean, still under care, out of medical benefits

May 16, 1994|By JoAnna Daemmrich | JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writer

Indicted Baltimore Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean's medical insurance benefits ran out over the weekend, jeopardizing her continued treatment for depression at a private psychiatric hospital.

Mrs. McLean, who is accused of stealing more than $25,000 in public funds and trying to arrange a city lease for the former headquarters of her travel agency, has been under care at Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospital in Towson.

Her city health benefits expired Saturday, however, and Mrs. McLean could either be discharged or committed to a state mental health institution, warned her attorney, M. Cristina Gutierrez.

"We're very concerned," Ms. Gutierrez said Friday. "She has been diagnosed as having severe depression. It is considered to be a lethal mental illness."

After the comptroller took a near-fatal overdose of prescription pills and alcohol April 14, the city granted her an emergency extension of medical benefits to return to Sheppard Pratt.

The two-week extension was prolonged by her move from the hospital's central residence to less expensive quarters. It was unclear yesterday if the hospital would permit Mrs. McLean to stay, or transfer her to a state facility. Sheppard Pratt officials declined to comment, citing patient confidentiality laws.

Mrs. McLean, 50, has struggled with depression for years, according to her attorney. As her once-promising political career unraveled amid charges that she had a fictitious employee on her payroll, the comptroller became increasingly despondent. She went on an unpaid leave of absence Dec. 20 and has spent the past months in and out of the hospital.

At the same time, Mrs. McLean is caught in a financial struggle and cannot afford to pay for psychiatric hospitalization, Ms. Gutierrez said.

For the past month, Ms. Gutierrez has been trying to work out arrangements with the state prosecutor to spare her client jail time, and with the city government to keep her in a private hospital.

She also has been trying to build public compassion for the comptroller by portraying her as a successful black woman who has suffered from the pressures of political life and a mental illness.

Mrs. McLean once ran a lucrative travel business with her husband, James. She promoted herself as a savvy businesswoman to rise to the third-most powerful position in Baltimore government.

However, the McLeans' travel agency collapsed during the recession. The couple sold off all the remaining assets but the headquarters at 12 W. Montgomery St. to pay off debts last fall. Mrs. McLean gave up her $53,000 annual salary when she went on leave.

The comptroller initially was scheduled for arraignment on theft and misconduct charges in March. Her attorney entered an innocent plea and a later date was set for a hearing on the charges.

But the court date was delayed and then called off after Mrs. McLean's lawyer failed to reach an agreement with the state prosecutor to avoid a prison sentence.

The case is now scheduled to go to trial June 8.

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