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Martin O'Malley won't face state ethics commission review of furniture purchase

The Maryland Office of Attorney General says the state's ethics commission will not review former Gov. Martin O'Malley's purchase of state-owned furniture from the governor's mansion, according to a statement.

"The State Ethics Commission has advised the Office of the Attorney General that it has no jurisdiction over this matter, and that no investigation was commenced or is underway," spokesman David Nitkin wrote in an email to The Baltimore Sun.

The email also stated that "under established procedures, the Department of General Services, which oversees the disposal of surplus state property, approved the sale of furniture to former Gov. O'Malley."

Nitkin did not answer which "established procedures" were followed. The department's manual for disposing of surplus property prohibits the "preferential sales" of state property to government officials.

A Baltimore Sun investigation revealed that O'Malley paid $9,638 for 54 mansion furnishings that originally cost taxpayers $62,000. O'Malley, now a Democratic candidate for president, moved to the Baltimore neighborhood of Homeland from Annapolis and furnished his new home with mansion furniture and items from his former Baltimore home.

The Department of General Services sold armoires, beds, chairs, desks, lamps, mirrors, tables and other items to O'Malley and his wife, Baltimore District Judge Catherine Curran O'Malley, 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. Such a transaction is considered a "preferential sale," a department spokeswoman said.

A department rule prohibits preferential sales of state-owned property to government officials.

Assistant Attorney General Turhan E. Robinson, the department's legal counsel, had 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 to a governor.

A spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan said the Department of General Services is still reviewing those procedures involved in the sale of furniture to O'Malley, and a smaller sale of items to former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich.

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