- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 11, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Martin O’Malley is continuing his public attempts to fire high-ranking Maryland officials, including those he has deemed disloyalto the administration.

Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, now has enough votes on the Maryland Stadium Authority board to oust longtime Executive Director Alison L. Asti, former board Chairman Robert L. McKinney said yesterday.

He said Miss Asti, a 13-year authority employee, is being punished because “she didn’t play ball with the O’Malley folks” and that the attempt to fire her is “nothing but a vendetta.”

Mr. O’Malley has pushed for new leadership at the authority since an audit in February found the agency failed to collect $1.7 million in back rent from the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.

Mr. O’Malley said last night he is looking for state employees who are “committed to the mission of this administration.”

“And in some places where independent boards make decisions, it will take a little longer than in direct appointments,” he said.

Miss Asti and Mr. McKinney have declined to talk about the audit since it first came out in February.

Last week, Mr. O’Malley said on a radio show he wants to fire state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick because he does not trust her.

Mrs. Grasmick was appointed in 1991 by the state school board under then-Gov. William Donald Schaefer, a fellow Democrat.

The O’Malley administration fired Maryland General Services Department official Nelson Reichart, a Republican, this summer after Mr. Reichart said the state paid about $1 million too much for an Eastern Shore land purchase.

Asti supporters said yesterday that Mr. O’Malley is bringing politics to a job that when created was supposed to be insulated from state politics.

“This has nothing to do with her competency,” Mr. McKinney said.

Board Chairman Frederick W. Puddester, an O’Malley appointee, said board members will not meet this week to vote on Miss Asti but declined further comment.

In 2004, then-Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, appointed the board members who signed Miss Asti to a five-year contract. But Mr. O’Malley gained two votes on the board when he was inaugurated this year.

Miss Asti earns $200,000 a year and was recently voted a $15,000 bonus by the board.

Board members are appointed to staggered terms to insulate the authority from direct control by the governor, in the same way that members are appointed to the state school board.

Meanwhile, Mr. O’Malley has feuded with Mrs. Grasmick since she tried to take over 11 failing Baltimore schools when he was the mayor there.

“It’s not so much a matter of like, as a matter of trust,” he said on “The Marc Steiner Show” on WYPR-FM. “That trust does not exist between Dr. Grasmick and myself.”

Mrs. Grasmick could not be reached for comment.

“He certainly has picked two of the higher-profile women in state government,” Mr. McKinney said. “And he’s going after them in a not-too-subtle way.”

Mr. Reichart, who was less than a year away from full retirement, has filed a lawsuit against the state that says he was fired for his comments and for being a white Republican.

Mr. O’Malley gave an explanation similar to the one he gave regarding Miss Asti.

“We will, when necessary, put professional and competent people into important government jobs to do the important work of our state,” he said. “We do so with one litmus test and one litmus test only, and that is: Are you capable? Are you committed? Are you professional? Are you the best person to [do] this job? We don’t do our party-loyalty calls, nor do we ever discriminate on the basis of race.”

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