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O’Malley says furniture purchases from governor’s mansion followed the rules

Former Maryland governor Martin O'Malley with his wife, Catherine Curran O'Malley, as he announced his presidential candidacy on May 30. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

ANAMOSA, Iowa — Former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley said Sunday that he was “kind of surprised” by the recent controversy over his purchase of discounted furniture from the governor’s mansion, saying his family “followed the rules as they were laid out to us.”

O’Malley, who was campaigning here for the Democratic presidential nomination, said in his first interview on the subject that if he had known there would be “any fuss” over the transaction, he probably would have not gone through with it.

When the O’Malley family moved out of the Annapolis mansion in January, they took dozens of items with them that his administration deemed “excess property,” according to state records. As first reported by the Baltimore Sun, the family paid $9,638 for beds, chairs, desks, lamps, mirrors and other items from the mansion’s living quarters that originally cost taxpayers $62,000.

[O’Malley furniture purchases from governor’s mansion draw scrutiny]

Many of the pieces were at least eight years old, and they were discounted by administration officials to reflect their age. Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., O'Malley's predecessor, benefited from a similar arrangement, although on a smaller scale, when he left office.

The O’Malley purchases have been criticized in editorials in the Sun and The Washington Post, and his Republican successor, Gov. Larry Hogan, took to Facebook to question why O’Malley chose to take so much “beautiful” furniture with him to furnish a new home in Baltimore.

Asked whether he thinks the price his family paid was fair, O’Malley said a check was cut for what the state’s Department of General Services determined was the furniture’s depreciated value.

“I know there was no negotiating of the price,” he said. “We were just told it was some sort of standard depreciation formula they had used for the prior family.”

When his family moved into the mansion in 2007, there was virtually no furniture in the living quarters, O’Malley said. He said it was furnished with a combination of pieces from his family’s old home in Baltimore and furniture choices they made from options presented by state officials. O’Malley said he recalled being told at the time that his family would have the opportunity to purchase items after he left office.

Shortly before Hogan took over, O’Malley’s wife explained the process to Hogan’s family during a visit to the mansion, O’Malley said.

“We followed the rules as they were laid out to us,” O’Malley said. “So I was kind of surprised eight months [after leaving office] that an issue was made of it.”

O’Malley said that if state officials want to change the rules, that is their prerogative. He said he suspects the issue has been raised now because he is running for president.