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Prominent lawyer will direct McLean ethics inquiry


Paul Mark Sandler -- a prominent Baltimore trial lawyer and author of several legal manuals -- has been retained as special outside counsel to direct the city ethics board inquiry into the conduct of Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean in steering a city lease to a building owned by her and her husband.

Alan R. Yuspeh, chairman of the Board of Ethics, said that Mr. Sandler would "do all the fact finding" in the case and submit a written report to the board, which would then issue an opinion on whether the city's ethics law had been violated.

Mr. Yuspeh said he expects Mr. Sandler's report to be completed by the third week in January.

Mr. Yuspeh said he has drafted a letter to Mrs. McLean, inviting her to provide a written account to the ethics board of her actions in the lease arrangement.

An agreement to retain Mr. Sandler was approved yesterday by the city's Board of Estimates. Mrs. McLean, a member of the Board of Estimates, abstained from the vote.

Under the agreement, Mr. Sandler will begin working for the board without charge but may negotiate a retainer later if his work "becomes time-consuming." He has been given a $5,000 budget for expenses in connection with the inquiry.

"I'm going to proceed thoroughly and expeditiously," said Mr. Sandler, adding, "I have always tried to accomplish my work ahead of schedule."

A practicing attorney for 21 years, Mr. Sandler is best known as the lawyer for Jeffrey and Karol Levitt during Maryland's savings and loan scandals of the 1980s. More recently, he represented developer and former harness track owner Mark Vogel in Mr. Vogel's bankruptcy proceedings and response to cocaine possession charges.

Mr. Sandler, a member of a mayoral commission studying possible charter revisions, is the author and editor of several legal manuals on trial and appellate law.

Mr. Schmoke said yesterday that retaining Mr. Sandler will ensure that "this matter can be thoroughly investigated."

"We take this very seriously," the mayor added.

At question is a lease proposal for a Federal Hill building that Mrs. McLean introduced in late October without revealing her financial stake in the property. The deal, which would have boosted the building's value by at least $200,000, was revoked by top city officials a month later.

Mrs. McLean has said that she considered the building sold to Baltimore developer Otis Warren Jr., who had a contract for the property contingent on the lease but has since withdrawn his offer.

The lease is also the subject of a grand jury investigation by Maryland's special prosecutor.

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