The state of Maryland, in a lawsuit filed yesterday, accused former Maryland governor Marvin Mandel and his wife, Jeanne, of lying to staff members and officials to cover up the removal of state-owned furniture and more than $3,000 worth of liquor and household goods from the governor's mansion.
The lawsuit, the latest legal attack mounted in the Great Furniture War, was filed in Annapolis by Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs one day after the Mandels filed their own lawsuit against the state.
Sachs' suit accused Mandel and his wife of concealing the true ownership of dozens of pieces of furniture and bric-a-brac from the staff at Government House, the executive mansion from which Mandel moved after his 1977 political corruption conviction. Furthermore, the suit alleges that the Mandels later lied to state officials who were trying to locate the missing state property.
"That is a total and unmitigated lie," Mandel fumed yesterday. "In this whole thing, we have never misrepresented anything.
"They say the items are theirs, so we misrepresented. That's ridiculous. These things are ours."
The state's lawsuit seeks the return of 57 pieces of furniture and other household items, the payment of nearly $3,800 for the food and supplies allegedly removed by the Mandels and at least $20,000 in damages.
The Mandel's suit asserted that most of the property that state officials claim they improperly carted away actually belongs to them. Furthermore, the Mandels contended, the state has 18 pieces of their personal property and they want it back.
Sachs said yesterday that 10 of these items are, in fact, state property. Three of the items, including some matches engraved "Marvin Mandel/Government House" are already in the Mandel's possession, Sachs asserted.
As to the remainder of this batch of disputed objects, the state already has promised its return to the Mandels and it will be delivered soon, Sachs said. This final group includes a bust of the former governor on a pedestal.
In addition to the furniture claims, Sach's lawsuit accused the Mandels of directing the removal of 350 bottles of state-owned liquor and wines, costing the government about $1,700, from Government House when they moved.
"Sure, I told them to pack the whiskey," Mandel said yesterday of his directions to the mansion staff. "It's my whiskey and I told them to pack it. Everybody and their brother knows it was my whiskey."
Sachs' suit also accused Jeanne Mandel of directing a member of the mansion staff to draw "a case of every type of household supply used in Government House" from a state warehouse and to pack them for removal to the Mandels' private home. About 43 cases of these suppies, worth more than $500, were drawn from the warehouse and removed by the Mandels, the suit alleges.
"Forty-three cases Jesus . . . ahhhh . . . ooohh," Jeanne Mandel muttered as she read the allegation for the first time yesterday. "That's an absolute lie," she declared.
She also emphatically denied allegations contained in the suit that she had directed her personal secretary to place huge orders for dog food, toiletries and other food at state expense in the 16 days before leaving the mansion. These items, the suit charged, were also taken by the Mandels.
Both the state's lawsuit and the Mandels' suit were filed in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. No trial date has been assigned for either case.