When the Maryland state government goes to pay the bill in its conservatorship of Community Savings & Loan, there may be an unusual expense in the entertainment column: $1,000 or so for a party staged yesterday by the firm whose financial crash crippled the Bethesda thrift association this summer.
About 150 employes of Equity Programs Investment Corp. (EPIC), the Falls Church-based syndication group that owned Community and defaulted on $1 billion worth of mortgage debts this year, attended a company party in their honor last night at the Ramada Seminary Plaza hotel in Alexandria.
The bash, no beer-and-pretzels affair, included two bars dispensing free liquor, a long table laden with hot hors d'oeuvres and a hired disc jockey who spun dance tunes. There was beer, too -- two kegs (at $125 apiece).
A Ramada spokesman said the bill for the party probably will come to about $1,000 and be sent to EPIC for payment.
But EPIC, like the 30,000 frozen depositor accounts at Community, is now controlled by the Maryland government -- and Maryland says it isn't paying.
"I sure as hell didn't know about the party and I certainly don't intend to pay the bill," said Melville S. Brown, the court-appointed conservator of Community and its many affiliates, including EPIC.
John McHale, a Community customer who is also head of a depositors' group that plans to rally in Annapolis today, had similar thoughts: "Obviously, it's our hope that any EPIC party would not be paid for out of Community funds. The employes should pay for it themselves."
Several EPIC employes said last night that their company put up the $300 deposit to reserve the Ramada's ballroom and staged the party as a way of rewarding those who stayed on after its economic collapse in late August.
EPIC, which depended on Community as a source of cash, announced on Aug. 16 that it was delinquent on payments to investors holding more than $1 billion worth of securities. The two entities were so closely related that when EPIC fell so did Community, and the thrift association was placed in state conservatorship on Sept. 5.
"The people who are here are either crazy or dedicated, because EPIC is a dead-end street today," said one worker, who like most of the other guests was in his late 20s. Few senior managers attended the party and employes said no EPIC or Community officers were there.
"We got a flyer on our desks the other day that said, 'Come to a party because you've done such a good job,' " another employe said. "That's why we're here."
One Maryland official said last night that employes of Old Court Savings & Loan, a Baltimore thrift association that collapsed in May, were honored earlier this year with a party "to keep morale up and to keep people from leaving."
That party was paid for by the thrift itself, the official said.
Brown said there was "some logic" to doing the same for EPIC employes because "the troops, by and large, are truly good people who are going to work every day.
"We need them to stay because they have skills and experience that we can't replace overnight," said Brown, one of several officials now sifting through the remains of the Community-EPIC real estate empire.
"After the past year, we definitely deserve this party," said one EPIC employe, a Virginia resident. "We know we're controlled by the state of Maryland and that Maryland will probably pay. It's the least they can do."