- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) — Mayor Martin O’Malley sued potential political rival Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday over the right to determine who will head a city agency described by critics as a “time bomb.”

The lawsuit would force Mr. Ehrlich’s appointee, Floyd R. Blair, to step down as director of the Department of Social Services while the city and state work together to determine a successor.

“We’d really hoped to have an open and collaborative search for the best qualified person,” said Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat who is frequently mentioned as a potential challenger to Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, in the 2006 election. “Unfortunately, all our attempts to collaborate have been rebuffed. We really were left with no other option.”

Mr. O’Malley says that Mr. Blair lacks the five years of experience as an administrator required by state law and that the Ehrlich administration shut the city out of the selection process. Mr. O’Malley also insisted that the lawsuit has nothing to do with politics.

“This is not some sandlot struggle,” Mr. O’Malley said. “This is a very important issue with far-reaching implications. … I can’t in good conscience just roll over.”

But Mr. Ehrlich said the law requires that the appointment be made with the consent of the mayor, but does not apply to interim appointments. Asked how long an interim appointment might last, the governor noted that Mr. Blair’s predecessor served as interim director for 18 months.

Mr. Ehrlich said at a news conference on the steps of the governor’s mansion that “we feel we are on very solid ground.”

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