Let it not be said that Comptroller William Donald Schaefer is incapable of apology.
Two weeks ago, at his first Board of Public Works meeting since losing his bid for re-election in the Democratic primary, the ex-governor so ticked off current Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that Ehrlich had an aide take away the pick-me-up pound cake he'd planned to give his friend.
But when Ehrlich walked into yesterday's board meeting, he was greeted not by more rants from the comptroller but by a neatly wrapped carrot cake on the table in front of his chair.
"Did you make this?" Ehrlich, with a knowing grin, asked Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp. She assured him she had not.
"Jerry, did you make it? Chip, did you make it? Paul, did you make it?" Ehrlich pointedly asked everyone in the vicinity - except the man sitting directly to his right.
"Oh, for Pete's sake, I made it!" Schaefer said.
(Not really. The man who said of one of his primary opponents, Anne Arundel County Executive Janet S. Owens, "I won't debate her about how to make a cake," did not engage in any baking himself. One of his staff members, Ginger Hanahoe, did.)
Let it also not be said that Schaefer is going soft.
After sitting in silence for most of the meeting - one of his final half-dozen or so before a successor is sworn in after the November general election - the comptroller got his dander up over a contract to outsource some of the State Highway Administration's graphics and advertising work. The agency was asking for approval of a contract valued at up to $7.5 million over five years, but Schaefer would have none of it.
He grilled two members of the agency's communications office, Sandra Dobson and Valerie Burnett-Egger, about why they couldn't do the work in-house with the existing budget. He didn't seem particularly impressed with the argument that the agency lacks the computer hardware and software to do the work and prefers to keep more engineers and fewer graphic designers on the payroll.
"Every time you stand up there, you're saying, 'We don't get enough money. Salaries aren't high enough. We don't have enough benefits.' I'm sick of it," Schaefer said.
"When you spend $3 billion, you ought to get something out of it," he said, referring to the Department of Transportation's budget.
"Three billion, and she comes up here yelling for more money. Good God almighty," Schaefer said before sending a piercing gaze at Burnett-Egger, who was standing 15 feet away at a podium. "Ha, ha, ha, ha, keep laughing."
"I'm not laughing," she said. "I'm just uncomfortable."
Schaefer abstained from voting on the Department of Transportation agenda, which included the outsourcing contract and several other items, but it passed anyway.
"You just let them get away with anything," Schaefer said to Ehrlich.