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A Silent Schaefer

A subdued William Donald Schaefer returned yesterday to the biweekly bureaucratic gathering that sparked ogle-gate. For nearly an hour, the typically verbose 84-year-old comptroller did not ask a single question or offer any opinion of the business before the board.

It was the first meeting of the Board of Public Works - a three-member panel that includes Schaefer, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr. and state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp - since controversy erupted over Schaefer's ogling of a young female aide to the governor.

Before the meeting began yesterday, Schaefer (D) remarked on the half dozen TV cameras assembled in the cramped conference room at the state Treasurer's Building. He then singled out one camera he thought was Channel 5 and apologized for berating the television reporter when confronted two weeks ago with questions about his behavior.

"I owe you an apology. I'm sorry I yelled at you," Schaefer said. "I didn't see you because I had the light in my eye. You've been my friend for a long time."

At the previous board meeting on Feb. 15, Schaefer stared at the backside of a female aide who had just handed him a mug of tea. With about 100 people in the room, Schaefer motioned for her to come back and then told her to "walk again."

Video footage of the episode was broadcast repeatedly, including on national television. Two days later, Schaefer was unapologetic in a TV interview and lashed out a reporters - particularly Channel 5 - for "turning something very small into something big." Later that day, he issued a brief hand-written apology to the aide.

The panel's official business yesterday was the sale of $280 million in general obligations bonds, but the cameras were fixed on Schaefer.

The mercurial former governor is famous for his fiery questions of bureaucrats about the finer points of state contracts and his long-winded lecturing about injustices, such as the treatment of homeless people in Baltimore. Instead, Schaefer sat with his arms crossed, chewed on the end of a pen and kept quiet.

By Ann Marimow  |  March 1, 2006; 1:27 PM ET
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