Maryland Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs says he will fight to the last lamp, because it's "the people's lamp."
His adversary, former Gov. Marvin Mandel, says, "By God, I'm not going to be pushed around and shoved around . . . . Whatever is in controversy is our property -- Jeanne's and mine."
A lawyer in the attorney general's office said they're trying to remember "this is about the return of some furniture, not a declaration of war."
At stake in the great furniture fracas are 87 objects, including Chippendale chairs, Waterford crystal and a red handtruck that the state contends Mandel improperly carted off when he left the governor's mansion in 1977.
Today, Sachs announced that Mandel had agreed to return 23 items to the elegant Government House in Annapolic by next Thursday. But if the rest of the state property is not returned by Jan. 4, Sachs said, he will file suit against Mandel and his wife, Jeanne.
Sachs said the case is more than a dispute over furnishings; it's the principle that "a public official be held to the same standards of conduct as others."
"When you teach little boys and girls they shouldn't take what doesn't belong to them," Sachs told a standing-room-only crowd of reporters today, "well, the same thing applies to former governors and their wives."
Sachs today revealed the list of disputed items. The list had been closely guarded for weeks. As previously promised by one source, it included "everything from schlock to luxury." Among the 87 items were:
Two bas relief wood sculptures from Government House doors.
One set of Franklin Mint commemorative spoons and plates, purchased for $769.61.
Waterford crystal ashtrays, glasses, lamps and biscuit barrel, and one Lalique French crystal vase.
One "Slo" cooker.
One pewter pipe box. The item was purchased for $125, but the pipe-smoking former governor insisted it "is tin. I didn't even know what they were talking about."
One Queen Anne-style wing chair.
One antique drop leaf table purchased at an estate sale.
One C. B. scanner.
One black metal antique coal hod. Mandel said it has a hole in it.
Sachs said the entire list of items, based on their original cost or 1969 appraised value, is worth more than $17,000 and now worth at least $35,000 because of inflation or appreciation of their antique value.
"Outrageous," replied Mandel. "It's no $35,000 involved. It's absolutely impossible."
The state also has alleged that the Mandels, who left the governor's mansion in October 1977, following Mandel's political corruption conviction, took more than $1,500 in food and toiletries and 43 cases of cleaning supplies worth $517. Those goods were ordered shortly before their departure, the attorney general's office said.
The state also claimed the Mandels cleaned out the mansion's $1,750 liquor supply, leaving "one bottle" of an unspecified beverage when they moved away, according to Sachs.
Mandels said any liquor he took belonged to him and that the cleaning supplies didn't even arrive at Government House until after he left.
He said he is providing the attorney general with documentation of his claims. Sachs said, "We'll keep listening until Jan. 4."
The 23 items that a truck will pick up and return to Government House next week include four objects that Mandel insists he has been asking the state to come and get since he discovered them among his belongings two years ago. Nine others are furnishings which Mandel said he tried to purchase from the state when he left office.
It was the $3,100 check he gave the state for the nine items last year that led to the current allegations. After receiving the check, Gov. Harry Hughes asked Sachs to study the question of whether he could sell state property. Sachs determined he could not and began the probe to discover what was missing.
Mandel also has agreed to return 10 other items he says "just aren't worth fighting about."
The talks that led to the promised return of the 23 items went on until well past midnight Thursday, and as the fracas has escalated, so has the intensity of emotion.
The current governor is said to be furious at the alleged removal of the furnishings he could be using today. The indignant former governor says, "What I took with me was mine." And the former governor's wife demands: "What do they want, his body in a pine box?"