- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 15, 2003

ANNAPOLIS The smooth and tightly controlled transition to the administration of Gov.-elect Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. hit a bump yesterday, with Ehrlich aides sending mixed signals over whether popular Motor Vehicle Administrator Anne Ferro will retain her job.
Mrs. Ferro was one of 30 high-level state employees who received letters Monday telling them their jobs would end when Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, takes the oath of office at noon today.
Legislators reacted quickly to the news. Many expressed outrage that the incoming governor planned to replace someone they credit with turning around an agency that had a terrible reputation for customer service when she took over five years ago.
"That's abominable. It's going to infuriate a lot of my colleagues," said Sen. Paul G. Pinsky, Prince George's County Democrat.
The message got through quickly to Delegate Robert Flanagan, who has been picked by Mr. Ehrlich to be the new transportation secretary. That would make him Mrs. Ferro's boss.
By late morning, Mr. Flanagan was making the rounds in the State House press rooms notifying reporters that Mrs. Ferro would stay on.
"I've talked to Anne. She's on the team," he said.
But later in the day, Greg Massoni, a spokesman for the incoming governor, said Mrs. Ferro would not necessarily remain as head of the agency.
"She will be a part of this administration whether it is in the present position or another plum spot in the administration," he said. "She is going to be a valued member of this administration."
By the end of the day, the transition team had settled on a single message. Mrs. Ferro will remain in her present job for now. If she is replaced later, she will be given another position in the administration.
"We left our options open and preserved a very talented person on the team," Mr. Flanagan said.
Sen. Philip Jimeno, Anne Arundel County Democrat, said the announcement that Mrs. Ferro would be replaced "sent shock waves through the Senate."
"They certainly have a right to clean house, but we hope they maintain good quality managers," he said. "She is not a political person. She is a professional."
Mr. Ehrlich already has announced replacements for most Cabinet secretaries. The 30 letters delivered Monday were sent to top administrators below the Cabinet level, including several in the Department of the Environment and Department of Natural Resources.
Mr. Ehrlich said he will be bringing in new people who reflect his positions. In some cases, such as environment and natural resources, he said state government "needs to go in a different direction."


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