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O’Malley won’t face ethics inquiry over mansion furniture purchases

Democratic presidential candidate and former Gov. Martin O'Malley earlier this week. (Andrew Burton/Getty)

The Maryland State Ethics Commission will not launch an inquiry related to former governor Martin O’Malley’s purchase of furniture from the governor’s mansion in Annapolis, according to a statement Thursday night from the state Attorney General’s office.

Upon leaving office in January, the family of O’Malley, a Democratic presidential hopeful, took dozens of items that his administration had deemed “excess property" to furnish their new home in Baltimore.

As first reported last month 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. Many of the pieces were eight years old or more, and they were discounted by administration officials to reflect their age.

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

The Sun reported that a lawyer for the state Department of General Services, which approved the purchases, had asked the ethics commission to weigh in on the “propriety” of the transactions.

In Thursday’s statement, the Attorney General’s office said it had been advised by the ethics commission that it “has no jurisdiction over the matter, and that no investigation was commenced or is underway. “

The Attorney General’s also office said that the sale of furniture to O’Malley was approved “under established procedures.” A similar, though smaller, transaction took place when O’Malley’s Republican predecessor, former governor Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., left office in 2007.

The lawyer who requested the involvement of the ethics commission is employed by the Attorney General’s Office and assigned to provide legal advice to the Department of General Services.

The ethics commission has declined to comment on the matter, citing confidentiality rules that prevent it from revealing matters under consideration.

While the Department of General Services could still alter its policies affecting furniture sales to future departing governors, Thursday’s development suggests that O’Malley is not in any jeopardy.

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

In an interview earlier this month, O’Malley said he was “kind of surprised” by the controversy over the purchase of the discounted furniture, saying his family “followed the rules as they were laid out to us.”

O’Malley also said that if he had known there would be “any fuss” over the transaction, he probably would have not gone through with it.

Current Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has been among O’Malley’s biggest critics, suggesting he took “beautiful” furniture that was not beyond its useful life.