- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 9, 2006

BALTIMORE — Lt. Gov.-elect Anthony G. Brown will lead the transition team for Gov.-elect Martin O’Malley, but the full team will not be announced until next week, Mr. O’Malley said yesterday.

“We know what we need to accomplish. The question now is assembling the most professional and competent people now,” said Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat and current mayor of Baltimore.

City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler will be the transition committee’s executive director, said Mr. O’Malley, who defeated Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, on Tuesday.

Mr. O’Malley, who will be inaugurated Jan. 17, said he will remove the members of the Public Service Commission (PSC) soon after entering Government House.

“I would like for us, consistent with what we said during the campaign, that we have a new Public Service Commission. And we will very shortly,” he said.

Mr. O’Malley criticized the utility-regulating PSC during the campaign for not preventing a sharp increase in electricity rates this year. He said the PSC did not sufficiently scrutinize the utilities and power companies to ensure the prices they charged were fair.

Electricity rates had been locked in place by price caps, set by the Democrat-controlled legislature in 1999, when it deregulated the industry. The caps were set to expire in June, and the PSC said rates were merely returning to market levels.

The legislature in June fired the five PSC commissioners, four of whom were appointed by Mr. Ehrlich. But the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled that the General Assembly’s action was “an unconstitutional usurpation by the legislature of an executive power.”

Mr. O’Malley had promised to fire the PSC, calling it a “lapdog for the special interests.”

“There were few agencies that failed quite so badly as the Public Service Commission,” Mr. O’Malley said yesterday.

The governor-elect said he would not carry out wide-ranging purges of state employees who were appointed by Mr. Ehrlich.

There are 7,000 at-will state workers who can be hired or fired by the governor at his discretion.

“That’s not what we’re about,” Mr. O’Malley said. “What we’re going after are professional people regardless of party to step up and take leadership roles.”

“For people who are already there doing their jobs, they just need to keep doing their job,” he said.

The governor-elect also said he will consider reducing the number of at-will state workers, as recommended this year by the legislature.

“It might be a good idea, and we’ll work with the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate, who I spoke to today,” Mr. O’Malley said.

A joint legislative committee investigated Mr. Ehrlich’s hiring and firing practices for more than a year after some Democrats charged that the Ehrlich administration had fired state workers for partisan reasons.

Mr. O’Malley promised that the transition committee “will reflect the diversity of the state in race, gender and locality.”

He said he will focus on managing Mr. Brown’s leadership of the transition effort and on interviewing potential appointees.

“What I anticipate doing is probably spending a lot of time on the phone with Anthony Brown and also being able to interview and talk with prospective candidates for the various departments and agencies,” Mr. O’Malley said.

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