Ex-Freddie Mac Chief Files to Keep Land

Former Freddie Mac chief executive Leland C. Brendsel and his wife own Wye Hall, an estate on Maryland's Wye Island.
Former Freddie Mac chief executive Leland C. Brendsel and his wife own Wye Hall, an estate on Maryland's Wye Island. (By Annys Shin -- The Washington Post)
By Annys Shin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 24, 2005

Former Freddie Mac chief executive Leland C. Brendsel is seeking to maintain control of 98 acres of public land that surrounds his home on Maryland's Wye Island, a state official said yesterday.

Brendsel, who retired from the McLean mortgage finance company after its multibillion-dollar accounting scandal in 2003, is asking the Maryland Department of Natural Resources to lease to him for 10 years 98 acres around Wye Hall, a red brick colonial residence that he and his wife, Diane, bought six years ago for $5.1 million.

Brendsel signed a five-year lease for the same property in March and proceeded to landscape part of it around a state road leading to the house to create a grand entrance. Department of Natural Resources officials canceled the lease six months later after determining that it was improperly awarded, accelerating its termination to the end of this year.

Brendsel is not alleged to have done anything wrong in the acquisition of the lease. He was out of town and not available to speak to a reporter, according to a staff person who answered the phone at Wye Hall.

In a public notice that ran last week in the Star Democrat in the Eastern Shore town of Easton, the agency said it had received an unsolicited proposal to lease the 98 acres on the eastern end of Wye Island in exchange for planting vegetation to help protect shoreline and to help sustain wildlife. The notice set a deadline of Jan. 9, 2006, for competing proposals.

Stephen S. Hershey Jr., the assistant secretary for property management at the DNR, confirmed that the bid came from Brendsel. His proposal "will be weighed against other uses and our mission," he said.

In September, after a neighbor complained that Brendsel was treating public land more like private property, Hershey reviewed Brendsel's lease. He terminated it after concluding that a local DNR official had inaccurately identified the 98 acres as inaccessible by a state road even though a state road passes through it. The incorrect designation allowed Brendsel to lease the land without having to competitively bid on it, though the land had been subject to competitive bids in years past. It also allowed Brendsel to pay a rate slightly lower than the rate for adjacent parcels.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company