Ex-director accuses chairman of using his office improperly Personal papers typed on agency's stationery

August 14, 1998|By Gerard Shields | Gerard Shields,SUN STAFF

The volunteer chairman of a city-funded veterans organization used an agency office to conduct personal business, a former commission director claims.

Maryland War Memorial Commission Chairman W. Russell Brown notarized personal loans on commission stationery, solicited donations from the office for events unrelated to the agency, and provided a job reference for an ex-convict, said Cynthia DeLeaver-Coates.

Commissioner fired

DeLeaver-Coates, who was fired from her $35,000 commission job two months ago for what Brown called "ill performance," provided The Sun with several documents signed by Brown and typed on commission letterhead that Brown acknowledged yesterday were for personal use.

DeLeaver-Coates said yesterday her troubles began in September 1997 when she questioned Brown about his use of office stationery for personal business.

Among the letters are receipts for personal loan payments, an invitation to a family gathering and a character reference letter on behalf of an ex-convict seeking to get his certified public accountant license back from the state.

"I had every right to do it as the chairman," said Brown, who was appointed to the commission by Gov. Parris N. Glendening. "There is no conflict of interest because I'm here doing work."

Commissioner Marian C. James asked Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr. in May to intervene in the dispute to determine the powers of agency officers. James said she has received no response from the state. A spokesman for Curran yesterday did not return calls for comment.

The 10 members of the commission, which was created in 1924, are responsible for managing the stately memorial building across the street from Baltimore City Hall. The building and war museum are mostly used by civic groups for meetings.

Five commission members are appointed by the governor, and five by the mayor. Brown has served as chairman for two years.

'Only stationery we had'

On commission stationery, Brown solicited John Paterakis, president of H&S Bakery, last fall for 100 hamburger and 100 hot dog rolls for a community event unrelated to the commission. On another document typed on commission letterhead, Brown gave his sister control of his estate upon his death. "At the time, I had the girl out there type it up and notarize it," he said. "It was the only stationery we had at the time."

Commission members said they have heard the allegations against Brown, but haven't seen the documents or discussed the matter among themselves. At least two commissioners, however, said yesterday that they are concerned about alleged use of the commission office for personal business. "It shouldn't be done, that's not the place for it," James said. "That's the commission, and it should be used for memorial-type things."

Replacement planned

The commission also announced yesterday that it will hire a replacement for DeLeaver-Coates to begin work Sept. 8. Former Circuit Judge Robert B. Watts, a 25-year commission veteran, refused to vote on the matter, saying that the DeLeaver-Coates issue should be settled before an appointment is made.

Friction between DeLeaver-Coates and Brown escalated June 24 when Baltimore police escorted DeLeaver-Coates from the commission building at 101 N. Gay St. Brown and other board members had dismissed her, contending that she opposed a new work schedule, took off 30 days for sickness and failed to complete board duties on time. DeLeaver-Coates denied the claims and is demanding her job back.

DeLeaver-Coates and several commissioners accuse Brown of orchestrating her firing and failing to give her a fair hearing.

Pub Date: 8/14/98

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