- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 2, 2009

ANNAPOLIS | A Maryland court has affirmed a state agency’s decision shortly after Gov. Martin O’Malley, a Democrat, took office to fire an employee who had been hired under Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

The Court of Special Appeals, Maryland’s intermediate appellate court, reversed an administrative law judge’s ruling that Gregory Maddalone was wrongly fired by the state Department of Transportation.

Mr. Maddalone - who lacked a college degree and had worked as an ice dancer - was fired in January 2007.

Mr. Maddalone had been hired in a patronage job with the state in 2003 under Mr. Ehrlich’s administration. He moved later that year to the Maryland Transportation Authority as chief of staff to the general manager.

In October 2004, he took a job as a legislative liaison with the Maryland Port Administration, a position that was later cut. He then worked in a midlevel position at the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Office of Engineering Procurement and Emergency Services (OEPES) - the position from which he was fired.

John D. Porcari, who was the head of the Maryland Department of Transportation at the time, fired Mr. Maddalone. Mr. Porcari testified during the administrative law review that he dismissed him because he wanted to reorganize the OEPES, which is involved in homeland security. Mr. Porcari said at the time he was hoping to find people with experience in homeland security to fill the positions.

But Judge Susan Sinrod, the administrative law judge in the case, noted in her June 2007 ruling that Mr. Porcari conceded he never looked into Mr. Maddalone’s personnel file, relying instead on what he had heard in news accounts describing Mr. Maddalone’s career as an ice dancer and questioning whether Mr. Maddalone had played a role in controversial firings during the Ehrlich administration.

The Court of Special Appeals, however, found that Mr. Maddalone never submitted an application or resume for any of the state positions he held, including the position of emergency-response manager. Consequently, there was no record of Mr. Maddalone being qualified for the job.

The court said “discharging Maddalone for not being qualified was a permissible, not unconstitutional, act.”

“Accordingly, there was not substantial evidence in the agency record to support the [judge’s] ultimate finding that political affiliation was Secretary Porcari’s sole motive for discharging Maddalone,” the court wrote in a 36-page ruling released Monday.

Mr. Maddalone was a friend of Joseph Steffen, a former Ehrlich aide who was the key figure in a bitter political dispute over the firing of state employees after Mr. Ehrlich was elected governor in 2002. Mr. Ehrlich was Maryland’s first Republican governor in 36 years.

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