- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2007

ANNAPOLIS — An unofficial list of state employees dismissed from their jobs or demoted has some lawmakers wondering whether Gov. Martin O’Malley is repeating the same hiring — and firing — practices that led Democrats to a 13-month probe of the Ehrlich administration.

More than two dozen state employees were let go or demoted by the state’s transportation agencies, including members of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee, the father of a former Ehrlich press secretary and a former Republican fundraiser, according to an unofficial list obtained by The Washington Times.

“This administration is getting a pass when the last one didn’t,” said Lisa Marr, who was appointed to the Maryland Department of Disabilities by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. Mrs. Marr was a state Republican Party fundraiser who was fired from her job in March when she was five months’ pregnant.

“It’s disappointing to see that no one seems to care about the Ehrlich appointees who were being terminated,” she said yesterday.

Mrs. Marr said she lost her family and medical-leave benefits when she was fired because the health benefits that come with her new job do not kick in until after 12 months — after her baby is due. But she added that she understands the nature of political jobs.

“I’m realistic, and I understand why I got my job,” she said. “It’s similar to what Mr. Ehrlich was accused of, and it just shows he didn’t do anything other administrations did.”

Top Democrats began investigating Mr. Ehrlich’s hirings and firings after his administration in 2003 fired a slew of Democrats, including a pregnant speechwriter who worked for Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat.

State Republicans last year estimated that the Democrat’s 13-month probe cost taxpayers $1.1 million.

“Why aren’t they saying anything now?” asked Sen. George C. Edwards, Western Maryland Republican who sat on the special investigative committee formed by the Democratic legislature. “You had all of these top Democrats screaming. You haven’t heard one word out of them now.”

But Democrats say it is not clear whether Mr. O’Malley, a Democrat, is repeating the same firing process that put Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, in hot water.

“I don’t see where this is in the same kind of correlation, and I don’t know the specifics behind this enough to comment on it,” said House Speaker Michael E. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat about whether he thought Mr. O’Malley’s firings were politically motivated.

The legislature convened a special committee of eight Democrats and four Republicans in 2005 to examine the hiring and firing of Maryland’s at-will employees, often considered to be patronage positions.

Its recommendations were turned into legislation, which was ultimately passed and signed into law this year. Republicans criticized the legislation, which grants limited protections to at-will employees, as having no teeth. The law did not take effect until yesterday — too late to protect many Ehrlich appointees.

“Now you’ve got the same thing going on, and you don’t hear word one out of top Democrats,” Mr. Edwards said.

The Towson Times first reported about the unofficial list this week and about the firing of an Ehrlich supporter and member of the Baltimore County Republican Central Committee who was receiving chemotherapy treatments for cancer.

Many other Ehrlich appointees are laying low, hoping they don’t pop their heads up long enough to get fired, said one appointee who requested anonymity.

“It’s definite hypocrisy,” the appointee said. “The thing that makes you even more concerned is that even though you know you are qualified for the job … you still don’t feel safe, and that’s a real shame.”

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