Statue contract, Goldstein beliefs appeared at odds Interim comptroller reconsiders memorial, lets panel pick artist

Bypass of Assembly planned

November 07, 1998|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Item 14-GM on next week's Board of Public Works agenda was just the kind of thing Louis L. Goldstein hated during his four decades as the state's fiscal watchdog: a no-bid contract, awarded without firm cost estimates or clear authority from the General Assembly.

Only this time the contract was to create a statue to honor the memory of Goldstein.

Fittingly, Goldstein's principles seem to have come into play.

Yesterday, Robert L. Swann, who replaced Goldstein after the 85-year-old comptroller died July 3, scrapped his plan to award a $100,000 contract without competition to the sculptor of his choice.

Instead, he referred the choice of the artist to the state Commission on Artistic Property, which is in charge of such matters.

Commission officials began an artistic competition for the contract yesterday.

In his rush to "do it now" before William Donald Schaefer takes over the comptroller office in January, Swann plans to leave the General Assembly out of the decision to spend $115,000 to $300,000 on the statue, much to the displeasure of legislators.

Del. Howard P. Rawlings, chairman of the Appropriations Committee, applauded the decision to hold a competition but warned that Swann risks another "faux pas" if he tries to bypass the Assembly.

Noting that there is no provision in the state's budget to build such a memorial, Rawlings said Goldstein would not have approved of the spending. "He was a stickler for process and fiscal integrity," Rawlings said.

The Baltimore Democrat said he appreciates Swann's strong feelings for Goldstein but that the late comptroller's memory belongs to the state of Maryland, not just the comptroller's office.

"I think the General Assembly, which represents the people, should have some say in how Louie Goldstein is memorialized," Rawlings said.

Swann said he sees no need to ask for General Assembly approval. "I want to get it done this century," he said.

Under Swann's proposal, a 7- to 8-foot-tall bronze statue would be placed in the Annapolis government complex between the Louis L. Goldstein Treasury Building and the Income Tax Building.

'Sole-source' contract

Originally, the comptroller's office planned to ask the Board of Public Works for permission to award the contract as a "sole-source" procurement, which usually is used when there is no logical competitor for a contract.

As a member of the three-person board, Goldstein was renowned for questioning contracts that were negotiated without competition and for relentlessly grilling officials who proposed such plans.

A longtime Goldstein friend, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, said Thursday that the former comptroller would have found this contract questionable.

"If he were on the Board of Public Works, being the fiscal conservative he was, I don't know if he would approve of a statue, and I doubt very seriously that he would approve of a sole-source contract," said Miller, who noted that the state has honored Goldstein by naming a building and a highway after him.

It 'slipped my mind'

Swann said yesterday that he decided to pull the proposal from the board agenda after state archivist Edward C. Papenfuse told him it must be reviewed by the Commission on Artistic Property.

"It really just kind of slipped my mind," Swann said.

Mimi Calver, exhibits director of the Maryland State Archives, said yesterday that officials of the commission had decided to begin an artistic competition. She said public notice will be given and that artists will have until Nov. 23 to submit their portfolios.

Swann said he hopes to have a new contract before the board by its December meeting.

The comptroller had wanted to award the contract to Frederick Kail of Lutherville. Kail sculpted the 7-foot-tall, 1,000-pound statue of former Baltimore Colts quarterback Johnny Unitas, which stands outside the University of Louisville's new football stadium.

'Qualified' sculptors

Antonio Tobias Mendez, a Frederick artist who won a nationwide competition to design the Thurgood Marshall memorial on Lawyers Mall outside the State House, said the award procedure seemed "really strange."

"I would have loved to be considered for something like that," said Mendez. "There's certainly more than a handful of Maryland sculptors who are qualified."

Swann said Kail proposed the Goldstein statue to Schaefer in July. He said Schaefer, who had announced his candidacy to succeed Goldstein, referred Kail to the comptroller's office. Swann said Schaefer had no involvement in the decision.

"Anything that has been done with this statue," Swann said, "Bobby Swann is responsible."

Marvin Bond, Swann's spokesman, said the price negotiations were left to the Department of General Services, which negotiated the $100,000 figure.

Conflicting estimates

General Services Secretary Eugene R. Lynch originally defended the decision to award the contract without an artistic competition. "It is a work of art that is only purchasable from the individual who created it," he said. Lynch later joined Swann in approving the decision to refer the matter to the artistic property commission.

Lynch estimated the statue's cost, including the engineering contract, at $300,000.

Swann disputed Lynch's estimate, saying it should cost no more than $15,000 to fill in the fountain on the site and to build a $H pedestal. He said the engineering contract for preparing the site and erecting the statue will be put up for competitive bidding.

Pub Date: 11/07/98

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