- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2003

Nearly $10 million worth of state property went missing or was stolen during the Glendening administration due to eight years of poor record-keeping and mismanagement of government resources, a top Maryland official said yesterday.

State-owned items such as cars, refrigerators, vacuum cleaners and computers have been lost or stolen, said Boyd K. Rutherford, secretary of the Department of General Services, which oversees and manages state property.

Mr. Rutherford, who took charge of his department in January, said the government is missing more than $4.31 million in merchandise from fiscal 2001, $2.79 million from fiscal 2002 and $2.69 million in 2003. He said he is not aware of any statewide audit of property being conducted in at least the past eight to 10 years.

“This office did not pay as close attention to this as it should have,” he told The Washington Times. “For the past couple of years, it is evident that there was not any attention paid to fiscal responsibility, but that has changed.”

WBAL-TV (Channel 11) in Baltimore first reported Thursday that its examination of state records uncovered more than $12 million of property that either has been lost or stolen. Mr. Rutherford yesterday said the figure is nearly $10 million, but he expects it to rise after a full audit is completed.

“I think a lot of items that are popping up as missing are just poor record-keeping,” he said. “The departments are listing items that we don’t know when they became missing.”

Previous General Services Secretaries Gene Lynch and Peta Richkus, who both served under Gov. Parris N. Glendening, could not be reached for comment. In December 1998, Miss Richkus replaced Mr. Lynch, who was promoted to deputy chief of staff in the Democratic governor’s second term.

Mr. Glendening could not be reached for comment.

In its report, WBAL-TV said the value of lost and stolen property may be much higher than $12 million because some state agencies have not been reporting lost or stolen property.

At just two state hospitals that did file reports, more than $1.6 million was reported missing, including chairs, beds, air conditioners and medical equipment.

Mr. Rutherford said he is rewriting his agency’s inventory manual to require property officers at each agency, as well as department heads, to sign off on what’s missing or stolen. The state also is considering using electronic tags to keep track of equipment and property.

He also said he is waiting to see what, if anything, is missing from the Governor’s Mansion, for which his agency has records sound enough to go back to 1996.

“What we are trying to do is establish a baseline of what property we have to make sure that we maintain that,” Mr. Rutherford said. “I also want to make sure we maintain proper records when we dispose of items.”

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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