O'Malleys' new life is a tale of two cities

Conflict rises over residency

January 06, 2007|By Jennifer Skalka | Jennifer Skalka,Sun Reporter

The O'Malley brood includes four children, three dogs and two parents with bustling careers, and, of late, the whole crew has wrestled with one big decision.

Maryland's Constitution requires Martin O'Malley, once he is sworn in as governor, to live in Annapolis. But the law also demands that District Court judges, including Catherine Curran O'Malley of the Baltimore bench, reside where they work.

The O'Malleys face a historic quandary - and one that is a novel twist on a problem many families must confront when one parent is offered a promotion in a new city.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in yesterday's editions of The Sun about where Martin O'Malley and his family will reside after he becomes governor erroneously stated that William Donald Schaefer wanted to stay at home in Baltimore with his mother after he was elected governor in 1986. His mother, Tululu I. Schaefer, died in 1983.
The Sun regrets the error.

With 11 days until the Baltimore mayor takes his oath as the state's 61st governor, the O'Malleys are still hashing out the practicalities of work and family lives that will - at least in the short term, according to the new first lady - straddle the two locations.

"We do intend to live in the mansion, we definitely do," Judge O'Malley said in an interview yesterday. "The children are very excited about it. As I am. ... But our intention is to remain as Baltimore City residents for the rest of our lives."

In a letter sent yesterday to Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn of the District Court of Maryland, the incoming governor's attorney explains that Catherine O'Malley will keep her job as one of 27 Baltimore District Court judges.

"Judge O'Malley's intent to maintain her domicile in Baltimore City is not inconsistent with the expectation that she will spend substantial amounts of her non-work time in Annapolis, including living in the Governor's Mansion, with her husband and children," Ralph S. Tyler wrote in the document, which was obtained by The Sun.

In addition to work-related issues, the couple must also determine what is best for their children - two teenage daughters and two young sons - who would have to transfer to new schools with a move to Government House or commute more than an hour each way. The family lives in Baltimore's Arcadia neighborhood.

"We're going to just play that by ear," Catherine O'Malley said. "The girls are very happy where they are right now."

The boys, because they are younger, are "a little more flexible," she added, saying, "They may move to school closer" to Annapolis. The three eldest children attend Catholic schools.

The O'Malleys are not the first family of a governor to ponder the pluses of living at home instead of in Government House.

William Donald Schaefer wanted to stay with his mother in Baltimore but moved to Annapolis -with his companion, Hilda Mae Snoops.

But no one challenged Parris N. Glendening, who spent most of his first term with his then-wife and son in their University Park home in Prince George's County.

"You are literally living in a fishbowl there," Glendening said in an interview this week, referring to the mansion across the street from the State House. "You walk out the door, and the public and the press are there. For children, in particular, there's a pretty strong impact."

Former Maryland Gov. Harry R. Hughes lived in Government House with his wife, Patricia. He said his decision turned on matters of convenience and custom.

"I think it's symbolically important," said Hughes, who is on O'Malley's transition team. "It's been there a long time. It's sort of tradition in Maryland. The thought never occurred to me to not live there."

Governors across the country make different choices, and many are not bound by state law to live in state-provided housing.

Catherine Curran O'Malley said she and her husband don't have a move-in date because they haven't received a move-out date from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s family.

Still, she said, she is looking forward to Annapolis and believes she can juggle career, family and state responsibilities. She said she's hoping that her role as first lady will focus on many of the issues she deals with in her courtroom: truancy, gangs and absent parents, among others.

O'Malley and his wife have dueling conditions tied to their jobs. The state Constitution says the governor must "reside at the seat of government." Meanwhile, state law also requires a District Court judge "be a resident of the district in which he holds office." Few lawmakers or constitution drafters probably could have imagined that the requirements might conflict within a household.

Legal experts say that in the past the courts have broadly interpreted the residency restriction that affects the state's next first lady, looking at a number of factors - such as where a person sleeps overnight and votes. Other matters, such as where a person's children attend school, where mail is received and even where an individual's doctors and dentists work, could also help establish domicile, according to a case involving one-time Republican Gov. Theodore R. McKeldin.

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