- The Washington Times - Friday, September 10, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — A judge ruling on the attempt to remove State Administrator of Elections Linda H. Lamone said yesterday that he wants to ponder his decision.

“I need some time to reflect on what you have said,” Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Ronald A. Silkworth told attorneys.

Judge Silkworth said one concern was whether the removal of Mrs. Lamone, Maryland’s top election official, would create a public mistrust in the Nov. 2 elections.

Mrs. Lamone was hired in 1997 during the Democratic administration of Gov. Parris N. Glendening but has been fighting to keep her job since August 2003, when the Maryland Board of Elections asked her to resign. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, appoints the board members.

After Mrs. Lamone refused to resign for more than a year, the board last week placed her on administrative leave with pay.

Judge Silkworth is expected to rule at 10 a.m. Monday on whether to issue a preliminary injunction halting the board’s decision. If Judge Silkworth finds in Mrs. Lamone’s favor, she can continue to run the office while contesting the move to fire her.

Mrs. Lamone, a Democrat, said yesterday that the attempts to remove her from the nonpartisan job are politically motivated.

“I believe it’s a very public and political matter,” Mrs. Lamone told the judge.

Maryland law says an election administrator can be removed only for “incompetence, misconduct or other good cause.”

Mrs. Lamone’s attorneys argued that her removal, even temporarily, would threaten the integrity of the November election.

“We may put this whole election in chaos,” said Jay Holland, one of Mrs. Lamone’s attorneys. “The state is inviting uncertainty, chaos and the possibility of litigation.”

Mrs. Lamone testified about the scope of her duties, from purging felons from voter rolls to handling an appeal by independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who did not qualify for the Maryland ballot. She said she is the only person authorized by oath of office to carry out such duties.

The Republican-dominated board notified Mrs. Lamone on Sept 3. that she had been placed on administrative leave, ordering her to return her office keys.

The board then brought in Robin Downs Colbert as election administrator. However, Judge Silkworth earlier this week allowed Mrs. Lamone to return to work.

State attorneys representing the Board of Elections argued yesterday that Mrs. Lamone’s staff and the acting administrator can manage the duties.

Mrs. Lamone said her reputation was damaged when someone leaked the state’s confidential complaint about her.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the complaint charges Mrs. Lamone with ignoring directives and telling a job candidate that Mr. Ehrlich was “out to get” her.

“I feel like I’ve been found guilty before I even had an opportunity to be heard,” Mrs. Lamone told the judge yesterday.

Her lawyers later said the state had breached confidentiality by leaking the complaint.

Mrs. Lamone said she has never had a performance evaluation and that as far as she knew board Chairman Gilles Burger was “very satisfied with my performance.”

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