Larry Hogan publicly questions Martin O’Malley over mansion furniture

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former Gov. Martin O’Malley appears to have engaged in questionable activities during his tenure,  

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan took to his large Facebook following today and Sunday to question why former Gov. Martin O’Malley purchased most of the governor’s mansion furniture after it had been declared “junk” by the Democrat’s outgoing administration — a transaction that the state ethics commission is examining.

A Baltimore Sun investigation revealed last week that the Democratic candidate for president had paid $9,638 for 54 mansion furnishings that originally cost taxpayers $62,000. The Department of General Services sold armoires, beds, chairs, desks, lamps, mirrors, ottomans, tables and other items to O’Malleyand his wife, Baltimore District Judge Catherine CurranO’Malley, at steep discounts after declaring every item to be “junk.”

The department sold the items to the O’Malleys, who together earned $270,000 in state salaries last year, without seeking bids or notifying the public that the items were available for sale.

An agency rule prohibits preferential sales of state-owned property to government officials.

“If they call that expensive, beautiful, barely used furniture ‘junk’, I’d hate to hear what they call the 20 year old stuff I brought with me from my house to replace it all,” the Republican governor wrote on his Facebook page on Sunday. “And if it was so bad and ready to be ‘thrown out,’ why would you try so hard to take all with you to your new house.

Hogan was even more direct on Facebook Monday: “Just to set the record straight, none of the 54 pieces of furniture included in the investigation was ‘junk.'”

“None of it would have been ‘thrown out,’ or surplussed, or sold in any manner,” Hogan added. “Had it not all been removed a few days before we moved in, our intention would have been to leave all of it in place, just as it was, in the people’s house.”

The furniture was used in the residential sections of the mansion, not the public areas, which are dotted with antiques. When Hogan moved into the mansion in January from his Anne Arundel County home, the Republican found a starkly less furnished house than the one he had toured with O’Malleytwo weeks earlier. He ended up moving in nearly all of hisfurniturefrom his Edgewater house.

“The governor was certainly surprised to find Government House largely unfurnished,” said Hogan spokesman Douglass Mayer.

The office of Attorney General Brian E. Frosh, who campaigned for O’Malley last week, referred questions about the matter to the department’s legal counsel, Assistant Attorney General Turhan E. Robinson. David Nitkin, a spokesman for Frosh, said the issue is a matter of “departmental policy” and that Robinson “should be able to answer.”

On Friday, Robinson asked the state ethics commission to determine whether the sale violated the prohibition and whether a provision in state regulations that allows the department to sell surplus property to charities and other government agencies without bids can apply to a private sale with a governmetn official.

Robinson wrote that the matter “requires ethics determination.”
“DGS is requesting a determination on the propriety of sales of excess/used furniture to an outgoing public elected official,” Robinson wrote on Friday to Michael Lord, executive director of the Maryland State Ethics Commission.

Lord declined to comment, saying his office is restricted from discussing any requests.

O’Malley declined to comment, but his representatives said that he followed proper procedures and that state officials had authorized thefurnitureto be thrown away.

The Department of General Services’ inventory control manual states that “the preferential sale or gratuitous disposition of property to a state official or employee is prohibited in accordance with Board of Public Works policy.” The prohibition against preferential sales—transactions made without publicly soliciting other bids—applies to all surplus state property, even items declared junk, a department spokeswoman said.

In addition to the department’s prohibition against private sales to government officials, the inventory control manual says that state ethics rules also govern all transactions. State ethics rules and the standards of conduct for executive branch employees forbid state officials from making transactions that involve information unavailable to the public.

O’Malley is not the first governor to get such treatment.

Former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. also purchasedfurniturewhen he left office—but much less. The Republican paid the state $992 for 21 furnishings that had cost the state $9,904. Unlike O’Malley, Ehrlich purchased mostly low-cost linens, mattresses, pillows, lamps and bunk beds used by his two sons. Those items were also purchased at prices set by a depreciation formula. The ethics commission was asked to also examine that sale as well.

via Baltimore sun

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