City probes purchase of motorboat

Transportation policy bars top officials from buying at auction

August 26, 2008|By Annie Linskey | Annie Linskey,annie.linskey@baltsun.com

Baltimore's inspector general is investigating whether a top city Transportation Department official improperly purchased a 15-foot motorboat through a city auction.

The boat, an Eagle 164 matching the description of one advertised for sale in a city auction this summer, was sitting yesterday on a trailer in the backyard of Anthony P. Wallnofer, a Transportation Department executive in charge of maintenance.

Department policies bar officials in the chain of command at the city surplus yard from purchasing vehicles or vessels at auction, said Sterling Clifford, a city spokesman. Clifford said he believes that Wallnofer's position puts him in that chain of command.

Clifford and other city officials declined to comment further, saying they could not do so because of the investigation.

Hilton Green, the city's inspector general, would confirm only that he opened an investigation into the purchase of the boat about a week ago.

Wallnofer could not be reached for comment yesterday. His wife, Margaret, reached by phone at their Harford County home, declined to comment but referred to the boat as belonging to her husband.

The make and model of the boat in Wallnofer's yard - Eagle 164 - is emblazoned on its left side. It is powered by a 40-horsepower Mercury Force outboard engine.

The city listed a boat described as a 1999 Eagle 164 for auction in a July 7 issue of The Sun. That boat was auctioned along with other vehicles that were abandoned or seized during police raids.

Investigators are looking into whether the boat was sold first to a towing company and then transferred to Wallnofer, according to a source familiar with the probe who is not authorized to speak publicly about it.

Wallnofer began working for the city in 1975. In fiscal 2007, he had the fifth-highest salary, $90,000, among officials in the Transportation Department, according to city records. As the chief of the maintenance division, Wallnofer oversees street lighting, road and bridge maintenance, parking meters and signs.

The vessel is still officially registered to a previous owner, James Thomas Baughman of Baltimore. He said he sold it last year but recently received a letter from the city indicating that it had bee n seized.

"They said that the boat has been impounded," Baughman said in a phone interview. Until getting that letter from the city, he had no idea that he was still linked to the vessel, he said.

Baughman described his former boat as an Eagle 164 with a 40-horsepower Mercury Force outboard engine and a blue top - like the one in Wallnofer's yard.

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