Clarke refuses to air city's 'dirty linen'

March 30, 1995|By Melody Simmons | Melody Simmons,Sun Staff Writer

City Council President Mary Pat Clarke was hardly hesitant to bash the Schmoke administration over spending $25.6 million in federal money on Baltimore's controversial no-bid housing repair program.

But when asked about the same issues by the national media, she didn't hesitate to walk.

Yesterday, Mrs. Clarke abruptly ended an interview at City Hall with a reporter and producer from the "MacNeil-Lehrer NewsHour" after the second question. The news show is preparing a story about local government's use of federal Community Development Block Grants.

Mrs. Clarke said she was ready to speak about block grants, but was stunned to be asked about the no-bid housing repair program.

"I am not going to hold our scandal up for the shame of the whole nation," said Mrs. Clarke, a Democratic mayoral candidate who was quick last month to contend that the top city officials who ran the program were corrupt and incompetent.

"We have a problem here, but we don't need to put it out across the U.S.A. It's one thing to straighten out a mess in your family. It's another to go on national television to air your dirty linen."

A three-part series published last month by The Sun detailed how one quarter of the no-bid repair money went to friends and relatives of Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and housing officials, and millions went to contractors with little or no experience, many of whom did poor work.

Betty Ann Bowser, a reporter for the NewsHour, said she explained to Mrs. Clarke that the interview would focus on block grants, but added she wanted to put that in the context of "what happened in the housing scandal in Baltimore."

Ms. Bowser, a reporter for more than 20 years, said she had never had an interview subject walk out.

"She told us, 'I'm having a bad day, and you're just part of it.' "

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