The object of their affections


May 07, 2008|By LAURA VOZZELLA

Seems like you'd need special legal authority and uncommon nerve to dupe William Donald Schaefer into moving to a retirement home. But it looks like Lainy LeBow-Sachs only had nerve.

The longtime Schaefer aide got him out of his Pasadena townhouse last month on the pretense of a Petit Louis lunch so movers could take his furniture and belongings to the Charlestown Retirement Community. At the time, LeBow-Sachs said she was authorized to move the 86-year-old political icon - against his will - because he had granted her power of attorney.

He had, sometime "in the last couple years," according to Schaefer. But the former Baltimore mayor, Maryland governor and comptroller revoked that power and gave it to someone else about three weeks before the move, according to documents obtained by The Sun.

"I, WILLIAM DONALD SCHAEFER, appoint JEAN LINDA BELL my attorney-in-fact," begins the six-page "durable power of attorney" document that Schaefer signed April 2. It revokes "all general power of attorneys previously executed by me," except for those "granted in connection with any banking, borrowing or commercial transaction."

LeBow-Sachs did not return calls seeking comment.

Bell declined to comment.

Schaefer confirmed that he had granted power of attorney to Bell, whom he described as "my friend for 30 years." He declined to say what led him to do so.

"I don't know who has it," he said. "Jeanie has one. She's a nice girl. She has one. ... Both of them had power of attorney at one time. There wasn't any fighting over it."

A longtime associate with knowledge of the situation said that Schaefer started scrambling to change his power of attorney March 30, when he got wind of LeBow-Sachs' plan to move him to Charlestown. LeBow-Sachs had been pushing for a long time to get Schaefer and his two bum knees out of his two-story townhouse. But Schaefer said he was not ready for a retirement community.

March 30 was a Sunday, so the best Schaefer could do was round up somebody to notarize a fill-in-the-blanks power of attorney form. In it, Schaefer granted Bell "general powers of attorney," authorizing her to act on his behalf on a wide range of matters, including real estate transactions, banking and personal affairs, according to the associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity because Schaefer had not authorized release of the information.

Later that day, when a woman arrived to put moving stickers on Schaefer's furniture, Bell held the document up so the mover could read it through the screen door. That was enough to turn the sticker lady away, but Schaefer was advised to have a lawyer create a more formal document - one that specifically revoked prior powers of attorney, the associate said. Within days, it was drawn up and signed.

Nevertheless, on April 24, Schaefer went out to lunch with LeBow-Sachs and found out only on the way home, as his driver headed for Catonsville instead of Pasadena, that home had moved.

So if LeBow-Sachs didn't have the authority to move Schaefer, is Retiree Annoyed raising holy hell? Is he fighting the move? John Gontrum, Schaefer's attorney, declined to comment.

Schaefer himself has sent mixed signals, telling some associates that he feels as if he's in "prison" and others that he's resigned to the move. In an interview over the weekend, Schaefer described his situation as "you know, good and bad."

"When you leave your home and it may be the last place you live, you don't feel so good," he said, "but when you look at the accommodations. ... They have waitresses and waiters, and the food is always good. A lot of people know you. They're very compatible."

Some associates say Schaefer - never one to back down from a political fight - is loath to cross the strong-willed LeBow-Sachs, who has been with him since his days in City Hall. Others say the lifelong bachelor doesn't mind having women fight over him.

Schaefer admits he wouldn't mind being at the center of that kind of scrap. But he insists that's not what's going on here.

"I wish women would fight over me," he said. "Not a woman fights over me."

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