- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 12, 2006

ANNAPOLIS (AP) — A legislative investigating committee directed its attorney yesterday to examine conflicting testimony from Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.’s appointments secretary and a former state official to determine if there was possible perjury that should be referred to a prosecutor.

The decision came at a meeting boycotted by the four Republican members that wrapped up more than a year of hearings into accusations that the Ehrlich administration illegally fired longtime state employees for political reasons.

A report adopted by Democratic senators and delegates found that there was evidence to show that some employees were fired for political reasons that violated their constitutional rights and state law. It included 10 recommendations for revising state employment laws that will be presented to the General Assembly in January.

Republicans, who criticized the inquiry as a costly partisan witch hunt, issued a lengthy report rebutting the findings in the report drafted by Ward Coe, a lawyer hired as the special counsel for the committee.

Henry Fawell, spokesman for Mr. Ehrlich, would not comment directly about the decision to consider possible perjury on the part of Larry Hogan, who heads the governor’s appointments office, because of conflicts between his testimony given under oath and an affidavit, also under oath, by John S. Sparkman, former director of the Maryland Environmental Service.

“They are just trying to drag it out until the election. That much has been obvious for the last year,” Mr. Fawell said. “It’s time they drop the charade and get back to the priorities of the state and of the voters.”

Mr. Fawell said Mr. Hogan would not be available to talk about the committee’s decision.

The conflicting testimony involved the firing of Vincent Gardina, a Democratic member of the Baltimore County Council, from his job with the state environmental service in September 2003, five months after he was hired.

According to the report, Mr. Hogan testified that Mr. Sparkman made the decision to fire Mr. Gardina. He also testified that in a telephone conversation, Mr. Sparkman told him he had been pressured by Democratic elected officials to hire Mr. Gardina.

But in his affidavit, Mr. Sparkman said Mr. Gardina was hired before he joined the environmental service. He said he did not talk to Mr. Hogan until after Mr. Gardina was fired and that he was directed to terminate Mr. Gardina’s employment by Diane Baker, Mr. Hogan’s assistant.

“Hogan’s testimony is most astonishing in terms of the contradictions that can be established,” said Delegate Luiz R.S. Simmons, Montgomery Democrat, a committee member. But he said the committee has not reached any conclusions, and no one is saying that anyone committed perjury.

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