A spot being aired on Baltimore television stations is sharply critical of Maryland Gov. Harry Hughes for his handling of the state's savings and loan crisis, making at least one point that is indisputable. Motives and technical shortcomings aside, the spot is a vivid reminder that state officials still are wrestling with bureaucratic and political solutions to a comnplex business and financial problem.
Maryland's S&L crisis continues to run its costly course after more than seven months, and it is apparent that it will meander well into 1986 before a solution is found.
There is one bright sign, however, in an otherwise dreary situation as 1985 draws to a close.
All but two of Maryland's larger state-insured S&Ls -- Gibraltar Building and Loan and Admiral-Builders Savings and Loan Association -- have qualified for federal insurance coverage before the state-imposed deadline of Tuesday.
Gibraltar and Admiral-Builders are expected to be approved soon for deposit insurance by the Federal Savings and Loan Insurance Corp., according to officials of the Maryland Deposit Insurance Fund.
Gibraltar has received conditional approval for federal deposit insurance coverage, and Admiral-Builders is in the process of completing a merger agreement with a New Jersey thrift.
There are notable exceptions, of course, to the law that requires state-insured S&Ls with assets of $40 million or more to obtain federal insurance by the end of this year.
Old Court Savings and Loan, First Maryland Savings and Loan and Community Savings and Loan are in conservatorship and have not yet qualified for insurance.
Maryland-insured S&Ls with assets between $15 million and $40 million have until July 1987 to obtain FSLIC insurance. If unable to do so, they must seek a merger partner or liquidate.
In the meantime, more than 100,000 depositors have savings totaling $1.2 billion frozen at Maryland S&Ls. After months of being denied full access to their money, depositors, working under the aegis of the Maryland Savings and Loan Depositors Committee, apparently have produced the TV spots in a desperate attempt to bring public pressure on Hughes and his aides.
Aides to the governor question the group's motives and wonder why depositors don't vent their anger against present and former S&L executives whose questionable practices triggered the crisis.
To be sure, depositors are victims of mismanagement and misuse of assets and liabilities at several Maryland S&Ls. Ongoing investigations will prove whether the state's S&L industry was shaken either by incompetence, illegal business practices, or both.
In the meantime, however, depositors are entitled to their money when they need it, even if they don't recoup 100 cents on every dollar that they invested.
In replacing the private insurance corporation that backed deposits in nonfederal S&Ls prior to the onset of the crisis in May, Maryland effectively put the full faith and credit of the state behind those deposits.
Therefore, the responsibility as guarantor of those funds rests squarely with the state and not with those who precipitated the crisis. State officials seem unable or unwilling to acknowledge that.
The FSLIC, faced with similar problems at troubled federally insured S&Ls, either places them under the management of healthy thrifts, thereby assuring continuity and maintaining confidence among depositors, or it liquidates insolvent institutions and pays off account holders.
Just last month, the Federal Home Loan Bank Board, which regulates federally insured S&Ls, took over the assets of a Texas S&L. The bank board then transferred the assets to a newly chartered S&L, appointed new directors and contracted with another S&L to operate the new institution.
Questioning the depositor committee's motives implies that its members are driven by a desire to see the governor politically embarrassed.
That may be part of the rationale for producing the TV spot, but the governor's political future is not the major issue in the continuing crisis.
The more critical issues are economic: consumer debt, credit, investments, loss of income and the flow of funds into local economies.
Hughes held out the promise some time ago of coming up with a plan to distribute frozen deposits by Christmas. That deadline was missed and the depositors committee reponded in a manner they obviously felt was justifiable.
Having failed to find a solution to the most volatile aspect of the crisis, state officials ought to consider two alternatives: seek help from federal regulators in developing a plan to distribute frozen deposits, or retain expert financial services consultants from the private sector to develop a solution, unencumbered by political and bureaucratic factors.