Amprey's finances not on file

October 06, 1994|By Gary Gately and JoAnna Daemmrich | Gary Gately and JoAnna Daemmrich,Sun Staff Writers

In his more than three years as Baltimore schools superintendent, Walter G. Amprey has yet to file required annual financial disclosure statements detailing sources of income, property ownership and potential conflicts of interest.

Until The Sun inquired about the statements, Dr. Amprey said, he had no idea he was required to file them and added that he will complete one before the Nov. 1 deadline.

"To be honest, I didn't even know what these statements were, and nobody ever told me I had to file one," he said. "I mean, it's not like I knew about it and just ignored it or anything."

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and his cabinet-level employees have filed up-to-date financial disclosure forms with the city's Department of Legislative Reference, as have the 19 members of the Baltimore City Council.

The superintendent is required to file the statements with the city school board as a result of a change in state law about a decade ago giving local school boards responsibility for such disclosures, said Bernard F. "Buzz" Murphy, city director of legislative reference.

In addition, the city's Ethics Act lists the superintendent among elected and appointed officials required to file the annual disclosures.

Phillip H. Farfel, the school board president, said yesterday that he had no knowledge of the requirement or the board's own procedures.

"This is the first I've heard of it," he said.

School system officials could not say when a city superintendent last filed an annual disclosure. Dr. Amprey said the requirement apparently had "fallen between the cracks."

Baltimore Police Commissioner Thomas C. Frazier and Health Commissioner Peter Beilenson, whose agencies are under state jurisdiction, have to disclose any potential conflicts with the Maryland Ethics Commission.

The health commissioner used to file with the city but then switched to the state about three years ago, Mr. Murphy said.

The Police Department has "a chain-of-command operation and procedures that are stricter than our law," he added.

Critics asserted that the superintendent's failure to file the disclosure threatens to erode public confidence. They said he should have known of the requirement.

"This is a very serious requirement of public office," said City Council President Mary Pat Clarke. "I think it's incumbent upon him to file; it's the law. I think you have to bend over backward to demonstrate you don't hold yourself above the law, whatever loophole may exist."

Councilman Anthony J. Ambridge, D-2nd, said he was not suggesting Dr. Amprey's disclosures would reveal any conflicts of interest. But, the councilman added, his failure to file "looks bad, very bad and raises some serious questions. Somebody screwed up and now it tarnishes the system."

Said Linda Prudente, spokeswoman for the Baltimore Teachers Union: "We have been long concerned about the lack of disclosure for Dr. Amprey and other school system employees."

Dr. Amprey said he would work with his chief of staff, Jeanette H. Evans, and Avery Aisenstark, school system attorney, to review legal requirements and prepare the statement. School system officials could not say whether they intended to submit statements for just the past year or for Dr. Amprey's entire tenure.

According to the city's law, these disclosures include a listing of property, sources of income, interests in corporations that do business with the city and most gifts from companies exceeding $50 in value.

In addition, Dr. Amprey must report whether any family members are employed by the city or do business with it.

Dr. Amprey was criticized last spring when he traveled to Hartford, Conn., at the expense of Education Alternatives Inc. In 1992, EAI was hired to run nine of Baltimore's schools and has since taken over a more limited management role in another three.

While there, he lobbied on EAI's behalf to counter what he described as a campaign of "distortions and lies" waged by the nation's two largest teachers' unions.

This week, Hartford hired EAI to operate its schools.

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