Over the next four years, Mr. Schaefer would use the board's public meetings as opportunities to heap abuse, scorn, mockery and indignation on Mr. Glendening and his appointees. Virtually every meeting of the board would begin with a monologue by Mr. Schaefer denouncing the governor in tones of contempt.

"Parris would just smile and stare straight ahead and not pay attention, and I think Mr. Schaefer would find that very frustrating," said Ms. Kopp, who became treasurer late in the comptroller's first term.

When he was first elected comptroller, Mr. Schaefer became vice chairman of the state pension board — then dominated by Treasurer Richard N. Dixon. Clearly bored by financial details, Mr. Schaefer deferred to Mr. Dixon and missed many meetings at a time when the pension fund's performance was in decline.

Early in 2002, with his health failing amid a growing scandal over fraudulent investments by Baltimore money manager Nathan A. Chapman Jr., Mr. Dixon resigned. Mr. Schaefer was catapulted into the chairmanship.

Once in that role, he took control of the fractious board. Eschewing his "do-it-now" philosophy, he moved deliberately to build a consensus for change. His efforts would pay off with substantial reforms and the eventual ouster of the retirement system officials who had been responsible for the oversight of Mr. Chapman.

"It's a much better system, I believe," said Ms. Kopp, vice chairman of the trustees. "People are working well together; the portfolio is doing better because people are inspired to work harder and work together."

While Mr. Schaefer was grappling with pension issues, he continued his feud with Mr. Glendening. Their antipathy reached comic proportions in 2002 after Mr. Glendening shut off the flow of water in the fountain that was Mrs. Snoops' pride and joy — ostensibly as a symbol of his seriousness about water conservation during a statewide drought.

Nothing Mr. Glendening could have done would have wounded Mr. Schaefer more, and the comptroller reacted with invective that made even dedicated supporters blush.

The dispute reached its climax that summer when Mr. Schaefer "outed" Mr. Glendening's well-known but still-unreported relationship with deputy chief of staff Jennifer Crawford — who later became the governor's third wife. At a public works board meeting, Mr. Schaefer announced that he had sent a letter to "the big boss" — Miss Crawford — appealing to her to get the governor to turn on the fountain.

Mr. Schaefer's public comments, reported in The Sun, prompted The Washington Post to print an article it had spiked detailing Mr. Glendening's overnight visits and vacations with his much-younger aide.

If anyone paid the price for Mr. Schaefer's disclosure, it was Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, who treated him with deference and affection. Even though Mr. Schaefer made commercials endorsing Ms. Townsend, it was not enough to save her doomed candidacy for the governorship. Dragged down in part by Mr. Glendening's unpopularity, she lost to Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that November.

Mr. Schaefer easily won re-election.

The next April, at a ceremony arranged by Mr. Ehrlich to mark the restoration of the fountain's flow, Mr. Schaefer vented his feelings about the man who turned it off:

"I will not have any disparaging remarks about him except I hate him. That's putting it mildly," Mr. Schaefer said.

Waning popularity

Almost immediately upon winning, Mr. Ehrlich set out to woo the comptroller with flattery, affection, desserts and a promise to turn on the fountain.

Mr. Schaefer welcomed the young Republican governor and seemed smitten by the attention of first lady Kendel Ehrlich. He would become an ally of Mr. Ehrlich's on most issues, providing the crucial second vote on the three-member public works board, which reviews state contracts.

Mr. Ehrlich recalled having three tiers of gifts that he would deploy when Mr. Schaefer's support was needed on the Board of Public Works. The first was a cake made by the chef at the governor's mansion. The second was a cake and a visit from Mrs. Ehrlich. And for votes that were "beyond important, Mr. Ehrlich pulled out all the stops: the cake, Mrs. Ehrlich and baby Josh.

"He knew I was buying his vote, and he loved it," Mr. Ehrlich said.

With Mr. Glendening out of the spotlight, Mr. Schaefer transferred much of his ire to then-Baltimore Mayor O'Malley, who had failed to show the deference the former mayor expected. He frequently savaged the mayor at board meetings and — contrary to his reputation as a champion of Baltimore — urged Mr. Ehrlich to take a tougher line in dealings with the city.