State National Bank of Montgomery County is in the market to buy a shaky savings and loan association, but the bank's president said he is getting little assistance from Maryland government officials who are counting on New York banks to help end the crisis in the state's savings industry.
In a recent letter to Thomas H. Maddux, the state economic and community development secretary who is a key negotiator on the sale of troubled thrifts to outside banks, State National President Philip M. Comerford complained that Maddux's office was "unresponsive" to overtures Comerford made to acquire a savings and loan association in the Washington suburbs.
"Your sole interest seems to be in having out-of-state banks, namely those headquartered in New York," acquire ailing Maryland thrifts, Comerford wrote.
Maddux has played a leading role in negotiations for the planned sales of Merritt Commercial Savings and Loan and two smaller thrifts to Chase Manhattan Corp. and First Maryland Savings and Loan to Citicorp.
State National's $175 million in assets are dwarfed by Chase's $86.3 billion and Citicorp's $154.6 billion, but Comerford said his bank is healthy enough to help ease the crisis that has paralyzed the S&L industry in Maryland since May. State National is based in Rockville; its 10 branches in Montgomery, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties serve 44,000 customers.
"Just because the New York banks are coming to 'rescue' the situation doesn't mean we don't want the same opportunity," Comerford said in an interview.
Maddux was returning tonight from a trade mission to Europe and could not be reached for comment. Lou Panos, press secretary to Gov. Harry Hughes, said that last May Maddux "tried an outreach to Baltimore banks and the response he got at the time was that no Maryland bank seemed to feel it had the resources to handle a large and troubled thrift."
"The governor would be very happy to see Maryland banks participate" in plans to prop up faltering thrifts, Panos added. The Bank of Baltimore recently announced its acquisition of the $115 million Municipal Savings and Loan of Baltimore.
Time is running out for State National, though. The thrift sales to Chase Manhattan and Citicorp are in the final stages of negotiation and will then await approval by a General Assembly eager to reduce the liability those associations pose to the state government.
Comerford said he plans to meet with Maddux soon. "We're frustrated," he said. "The leadership is coming from New York, not Annapolis."