Cash went into account McLean set up

THE BALTIMORE SUN

More than $22,000 paid to a mystery worker hired by Baltimore Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean was deposited into two bank accounts under the name of an apparently fictitious organization -- the first of which was set up by the comptroller herself.

Both bank accounts list the organization's address as that of a Northwest Baltimore hair salon owned by Mrs. McLean's sister and brother-in-law.

One account has a Social Security number identical to that of the comptroller's 21-year-old daughter.

The checking accounts were opened at the same bank used by Network 2000, a women's group for which Mrs. McLean serves " as treasurer. Both contain the signature of state lobbyist and Network 2000 co-founder Carolyn Burridge, who said yesterday that her name was forged.

"I am furious at her for doing this," said Ms. Burridge, who will testify before a Baltimore grand jury today. "I can't believe it. She's stuck me in the middle of this mess."

Neither Mrs. McLean nor her attorney, William H. Murphy Jr., would comment yesterday on the opening of the bank accounts and accusations of forgery.

News of the bank accounts is the latest in a series of problems for the embattled comptroller, who took an indefinite, paid leave Monday until investigations of her activities are completed by the state special prosecutor and city ethics board.

Investigators are looking into allegations that Mrs. McLean tried to have the city lease a building owned by her and her husband, and that she hired as public relations consultant a woman who apparently never did any work.

In October 1992, just a week after Mrs. McLean won approval of a city contract to hire a public relations consultant known as Michele McCloud, the comptroller opened a checking account at Harbor Bank for a group called Resources for Women.

A bank document shows that Michele McCloud is listed as the secretary of the organization, which is not incorporated in Maryland or known by women's activists.

The account listed the group's address as 5401 Park Heights Ave. -- the same address as the hair salon owned by Mrs. McLean's sister and brother-in-law. Checks sent for the past 15 months to Ms. McCloud also went to Salon Me'Chelle.

The checking account contains the same Social Security number as the one assigned to the comptroller's daughter, Michelle D. McLean. City payment orders made out to Michele McCloud have the same Social Security number except for one digit.

Documents obtained by The Sun show the account was opened the names of Mrs. McLean, Ms. McCloud and Ms. Burridge. It listed as a contact number the comptroller's direct telephone line at City Hall.

A second account, opened three months later, also has the name of Resources for Women and the address of the hair salon. It carries the signatures of Ms. Burridge and Ms. McCloud, but not Mrs. McLean's name or telephone number.

City documents obtained by The Sun show that the first check issued to Ms. McCloud, for $917, was deposited in the account opened Oct. 9. All the remaining payments to Ms. McCloud, totaling some $21,000, were deposited in the second account.

Bank officials did not return telephone calls yesterday.

An outraged Ms. Burridge says both of her signatures were forged. She first learned of the two accounts, she said, when contacted by Maryland's special prosecutor.

Ms. Burridge wrote her name for a reporter yesterday to show that her signature does not match those on the bank documents. She also pointed out that her last name was misspelled on the documents at least once.

Ms. Burridge, who helped found Network 2000, an organization devoted to promoting women on corporate and civic boards, believes it is no coincidence that her name and an apparently fictitious women's group were used to open the bank account.

"The only thing I can think of is, she was trying to make it look like part of Network 2000," Ms. Burridge said, adding that she had never heard of any organization called Resources for Women.

Mrs. McLean was one of the original 11 charter members who formed Network 2000 in the summer of 1992. The group now has 30 members, from company presidents to government officials, attorneys, media workers and health care professionals.

The comptroller was elected the group's treasurer.

"It was perfect. You want the best-skilled person for the position, and she fit the bill more than anyone else," said parking magnate Lisa Renshaw, also a member of Network 2000. "Her area of expertise was finance."

Mrs. McLean and Baltimore businesswoman Tucky Ramsey, co-founder with Ms. Burridge, are the only ones who have the power to withdraw money from Network 2000's small account at Harbor Bank. It contains about $1,800 to cover postage and other expenses.

The organization has frozen its account and sent a letter to Mrs. McLean requesting that the books be turned over, Ms. Burridge said.

An emergency meeting to discuss whether hiring an outside auditor is necessary has been scheduled for Jan. 6.

Ms. Burridge says she feels betrayed. "I am so upset that this is happening."

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke would not comment on the bank accounts. He repeated his position that he will wait for the state prosecutor to finish the investigation before deciding whether to take steps to remove Mrs. McLean from office.

"I don't anticipate it will be very long before action is taken," the mayor said.

State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli is looking into the comptroller's hiring of Ms. McCloud, who was paid $21.73 an hour for writing press releases and clipping articles. No one in the comptroller's office has been able to identify the employee so far or produce any of her work.

He also is looking into allegations that Mrs. McLean steered a Health Department lease in October to the former headquarters of the travel agency she built with her husband. The lease would have boosted the value of the Federal Hill building, which was for sale, by at least $200,000. The lease was revoked last month, after top city officials discovered Mrs. McLean's interest in the building.

CHRONOLOGY

Sept. 30, 1992: Comptroller Jacqueline F. McLean proposes a one-year contract for Michele McCloud to do public relations work. The contract sets her pay at $917 per month. The Board of Estimates approves the contract.

Oct. 9, 1992: Mrs. McLean opens a checking account for an organization called Resources For Women. The account also carries the names Michele McCloud and Carolyn Burridge and lists the address as 5401 Park Heights Ave. The Social Security number listed on the document belongs to Mrs. McLean's daughter, Michelle.

Dec. 15, 1992: A check for $917 from the city of Baltimore is deposited in the account, endorsed by Michele McCloud in the name of Resources for Women.

Jan. 9, 1993: Ms. McCloud opens another checking account for Resources For Women. The account authorizes Ms. McCloud and Ms. Burridge to make transactions, and carries their signatures.

Jan. 22, 1993: A check for $687.79 from the city is deposited in the new account. It is endorsed by Michele McCloud but does not list the organization's name. Other checks from the McCloud contract -- a total of about $21,000 -- are also deposited in the account.

March 31, 1993: The comptroller, with board approval, amends the McCloud contract to reflect an hourly wage of $21.73. That boosts monthly pay to about $2,600.

Oct. 4, 1993: The McCloud contract is renewed by board.

Dec. 17, 1993: News breaks of Ms. McCloud's employment contract -- she apparently never did any work. Her checks were sent to 5401 Park Heights Ave. That is the address of Salon

Me'Chelle, a hair salon run by Mrs. McLean's sister and $l brother-in-law.

I= Dec. 21, 1993: Mrs. McLean takes a paid leave of absence.

SIGNATURES THAT DON'T MATCH

Money paid by the comptroller's office to an employee who apparently did no work was deposited in an account at Harbor Bank. The signatures to the left appear on the account, but Carolyn Burridge says her signature was forged.

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