Glendenings granted immediate divorce

Marriage ends two days before 25th anniversary

November 20, 2001|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

Gov. Parris N. Glendening and Frances Hughes Glendening divorced yesterday after a brief legal proceeding that reflected the couple's intense desire for privacy despite a highly public marriage.

Two days before what would have been their 25th wedding anniversary, the governor, 59, appeared before Prince George's County Circuit Judge William D. Missouri and filed a complaint for absolute divorce.

It was granted immediately, a practice that lawyers say is uncommon. The tactic prevented reporters and others from tracking the case through the legal system or knowing when to attend hearings at the Upper Marlboro courthouse.

The divorce was uncontested, and Frances Glendening, 50, did not appear in court. She was represented by her attorney, Sanford K. Ain.

"It's unusual, but frankly, it shouldn't be," said Baltimore divorce attorney Sheila K. Sachs, speaking of the one-day court process. "The reason it's unusual is most lawyers don't think about doing it this way. ... I've had situations like that where people want to keep their private issues private."

Many of the couple's assets were divided through an agreement, dated Sept. 17, that was not filed with the court. Public documents contained information only about who would receive assets from the governor's retirement accounts.

Frances Glendening will get an IRA that was worth $68,244 in June 2000 and all of the unspecified earnings from a state 401(k) plan.

Starting in January 2003, she also will receive a $1,122 monthly pension payment from Prince George's County, where Glendening was county executive, plus half of a $107,758 lump-sum payment from the county.

State assessment records show that the Glendenings' home in Hyattsville was transferred to Frances Glendening on Oct. 22. The house is valued at $340,430 for tax purposes.

`Private matter'

The governor would not be interviewed about the proceedings. "Our divorce is a personal and private matter and I will not comment further," he said in a brief prepared statement in which he thanked Marylanders "for respecting our privacy during this difficult time."

Frances Glendening declined an interview request yesterday, but said in a statement: "It has been a great honor and privilege to serve as Maryland's First Lady throughout the past seven years. I am immensely grateful to my fellow Marylanders for their many kindnesses and for allowing me to contribute in such a meaningful way to my home state."

Since July 24 of last year, the complaint said, the couple "did mutually and voluntarily agree to live separate and apart from one another in separate abodes, and that said voluntary agreement was the deliberate and final act of both parties."

The separation caught many political observers by surprise. Only a few weeks earlier, Frances Glendening had appeared jubilantly by her husband's side as he was installed as chairman of the National Governors' Association.

New companion

In August, the Washington Post reported that over several weeks, its reporters had observed the governor vacationing and spending the night at the home of Jennifer E. Crawford, 35, his deputy chief of staff. Crawford had held a series of lower-level political jobs before her promotion last year to the highly visible position that pays more than $100,000 annually.

The governor and Crawford have been seen together more frequently since the article was published.

Mike Morrill, the governor's communications director, reiterated yesterday that Glendening would not comment on any personal relationship.

For years, Frances Glendening - daughter of a former Senate minority leader - was considered her husband's most valued political adviser. They met in a political science class at the University of Maryland, College Park. He was the teacher; she, the student.

An attorney with the Federal Elections Commission, she helped run his campaigns and managed his transition teams after each victory. He brought her to tears in 1995 when he enlisted a National Guard sergeant to serenade her with the ballad "Wind Beneath My Wings" in the middle of his inaugural speech.

The Glendenings have a son, Raymond, 21, a student at West Virginia University.

"I do know both of them. And I think both of them will be getting on with their lives," said Lance W. Billingsley, an attorney and member of the state university system's Board of Regents. "At one time, it had its good moments, as most relationships do. But sometimes, things don't work out."

`Straightforward matter'

Her attorney, Ain, called the proceedings "a very straightforward matter. ... She wants her space, and she wants to get on with her life."

He said the court hearing lasted only a few minutes, but was not handled differently than other cases. "These are very pro forma proceedings, whether you are the governor or anybody else," Ain said.

Frances Glendening will keep her commitment to several events scheduled during the next three weeks, but will cease official duties as first lady within 30 days, said her spokeswoman, Susan Casey.

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