Questions arise over ad using Grasmick's name Husband endorses bank on behalf of state superintendent

April 04, 1996|By Marina Sarris | Marina Sarris,SUN STAFF

A radio advertisement for a Baltimore bank says that Nancy S. Grasmick recommends its services, raising possible ethical questions for Maryland's superintendent of schools.

On a commercial on radio station WBAL-AM, Dr. Grasmick's husband, lumber company executive Louis J. Grasmick, endorses Harbor Bank of Maryland and says his wife does, too.

"If you want a bank that's friendly, reliable and cares about your business, Nancy and I recommend the Harbor Bank of Maryland," Mr. Grasmick says.

Later, an announcer urges listeners to visit a branch and says, "Like Lou and Nancy Grasmick, you will be convinced that the Harbor Bank of Maryland is Maryland's premier community bank."

Mr. Grasmick holds stock in Harbor Bank and is a member of its board of directors. The ad does not mention his wife's position in state government.

State ethics laws prohibit public officials from "intentionally" using the prestige of their offices for personal gain or the gain of another.

Dr. Grasmick said yesterday that she did not know her husband was going to mention her name in the ad and that she would have advised against it had she known in advance.

"I didn't do it. I didn't know it was being done. I don't have stock in the bank. And you know what, I would be surprised if anyone would go to the bank because of me," she said.

"I am a real person, so I have to bank somewhere. I think it's great a minority-controlled bank is doing so well."

In a separate interview, Mr. Grasmick said he didn't tell his wife about using her name in the ad. "No one is more ethical than Nancy," he said.

Mr. Grasmick said he owns Harbor Bank stock in his name and plans, with his wife, to "make a substantial purchase next week."

He declined to reveal how many shares he has, but a 1995 proxy statement put the num- ber at close to 4,000 shares. A bank officer said stock will be sold for $15 a share this month.

Asked about the ad, a spokesman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening defended the schools superintendent.

"People who know Nancy Grasmick and know the years of dedicated service she has given the state -- as secretary of juvenile services, as special secretary of the Office of Children, Youth and Families and as superintendent of schools -- know that she has an exemplary reputation," said John W. Frece, Mr. Glendening's communications director.

"This is a quirk. This is clearly no reflection on her."

John E. O'Donnell, executive director of the state Ethics Commission, declined to discuss the ad.

Samuel J. Deal, a vice president of Harbor Bank, said the ad is one of several done recently by members of the bank's board.

Pub Date: 4/04/96

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