ANNAPOLIS, JAN. 29 -- Legislative auditors wanted to look around the Maryland governor's mansion to inventory the property and review the books. But they didn't reckon with one of the occupants: Hilda Mae Snoops.
First, the auditors were refused access to some records on items donated to the mansion and had to turn to the Attorney General's Office. Then, Snoops, a longtime companion of Gov. William Donald Schaefer, didn't take kindly to one of the auditors and at one point wouldn't allow him in the place.
The progress of the usually routine audit -- or lack thereof -- was outlined in a memo late last week from William S. Ratchford, director of the Department of Fiscal Services, to leaders of the General Assembly. He concluded, "It appears that the audit of the Governor's Office will be conducted in an adversarial environment . . . . "
Today, spokesmen for Schaefer and the Department of General Services, which oversees the mansion and its grounds, said that whatever problems once existed had been cleared away. The audit will go on, they said, beginning Tuesday.
"It was a problem of timing and scheduling," said Schaefer's press secretary, Paul E. Schurick. "Mrs. Snoops had asked for a better time and they have agreed."
Said Joe Harrison, of the Department of General Services, "We're cooperating with legislative services. I'm not going to get into whether at some point there were issues of jurisdiction."
Snoops, who declines all requests for news media interviews, has played a high-profile role at the mansion since Schaefer's 1986 election. Her extensive renovation at the mansion, as well as removal of several large trees on the grounds, were the subject of intense criticism. Last year, she helped engineer the installation of a controversial, privately financed fountain.
As part of the normal two-year cycle, auditors were reviewing the Governor's Office and included the mansion and its contents this year. Ratchford said in his memo that auditors sought to inventory items acquired by the state or donated to the mansion, as well as review funds that support the governor's official residence. In part, he said, it was to assure that property was covered by sufficient insurance.
In his letter to House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell Jr. (D-Kent) and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's), Ratchford said he was disturbed that Snoops, who was appointed by the governor to serve on the Governor's Mansion Trust, had refused to allow a particular auditor into the mansion.
"This is not acceptable to either the legislative auditor or myself as we do not believe a state agency should dictate who is part of the staff that audits the agency," Ratchford wrote.