State worker sent home after judge’s reinstatement

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ANNAPOLIS — A state worker whom the O’Malley administration fired because of his Republican ties returned to work Wednesday in accordance with a judge’s ruling, and was told to go home again.

Greg Maddalone, who worked as a homeland security specialist in the transportation secretary’s office, was sent home indefinitely Wednesday after he returned to his job, said two sources close to the matter.

Administrative Law Judge Susan A. Sinrod on Monday ordered Mr. Maddalone to be reinstated with full back pay, ruling that Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari fired him illegally for his political ties to former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican.

Mr. Maddalone is “in discussions with our human resources department,” Jack Cahalan, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of Transportation, said yesterday.

Gov. Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, was unavailable for comment.

Neither Mr. Maddalone nor his attorney, Debra C. Cruz, returned calls seeking comment.

Judge Sinrod ruled that Mr. Porcari violated Mr. Maddalone’s First and 14th Amendment rights. In addition, she noted, it is illegal under state law to fire workers solely because of their political affiliations.

In 2005, Democratic lawmakers accused Mr. Ehrlich of illegally firing thousands of state workers because of their ties to previous Democratic administrations.

But a 13-month, $1.1 million investigation conducted by the Democrat-controlled General Assembly found that Mr. Ehrlich had not fired anyone illegally.

Other state workers with Republican ties say they were fired by O'Malley administration officials because of their political affiliation.

Ryan Nawrocki, a former public information officer at the Maryland Aviation Administration, said he is appealing his firing.

“I do feel that [Mr. O'Malley‘s] administration has made it a political process,” Mr. Nawrocki said yesterday. “It’s only six months into this administration, and we already have a ruling saying, ‘Hey, you guys messed this up.’ ”

Democratic leaders yesterday said they do not plan to investigate O'Malley administration firings because they were not as numerous as the Ehrlich administration’s.

“I don’t see anything that leads to that magnitude now,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat. “Are there some improper firings, and you go through the proper procedure at the [Office of Administrative Hearings] and they overrule the firing — that’s fine.”

Mr. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Prince George’s County Democrat, created the Special Committee on State Employee Rights and Protections in June 2005 to examine the Ehrlich firings.

Members of the special committee said the way in which Ehrlich aides fired employees differs from how O'Malley officials have removed workers.

“They had guys like Joe Steffen running around calling themselves the ‘Prince of Darkness,’ ” said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, Montgomery Democrat and special committee member. “They made jokes out of it, they did it in almost a bloodthirsty way.”

Mr. Ehrlich said yesterday that state Sen. Thomas McLain Middleton, Charles County Democrat and special committee co-chairman, should reconvene the panel to investigate Mr. O'Malley’s firings.

“I know Mac, and I would expect him to have a hearing on the Maddalone matter,” Mr. Ehrlich said.

The 2005 investigation examined the firings of more than 7,000 at-will state employees, who serve at the pleasure of the governor and can be fired without cause.

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