P I S S ON Drew and Joshua Ehrlich
(too old to reply)
2005-01-01 20:57:48 UTC
Ill feelings at the top hobble Md. governing

by David Nitkin (Baltimore Sun Staff)

Originally published January 1, 2005

With a two-day special session of the General Assembly ending in
acrimony, the prospects of amicable relations between Maryland's first
Republican governor in more than 30 years and a Democrat-controlled
legislature are at an all-time low.

Ehrlich promised this week to veto the medical malpractice reform
legislation produced by weary and perturbed lawmakers who had canceled
vacations and caught planes to return to Annapolis for the
extraordinary session he convened.

The bill doesn't contain strict enough caps on malpractice jury awards,
the governor said. The plan to raise money to subsidize insurance
premiums of doctors - removing a 2 percent tax exemption for HMO
policies - is unacceptable, he said.

Some lawmakers, for their part, have vowed to attempt to override a

The state's constitution was designed to give broad powers to the
governor, House speaker and Senate president; agreement among the three
is needed for progress. But the relations of Ehrlich, House Speaker
Michael E. Busch and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller are
critically fractured.

The timing of the current nadir, just two weeks before the start of the
regular 90-day session, spells trouble for whatever legislative agenda
Ehrlich decides to pursue during his third year in office.

"Never in the past three decades have I seen this kind of rancor in the
two branches of government," said John N. Bambacus, a former Republican
state senator and mayor of Frostburg who teaches political science at
Frostburg State University.

"I really believe the citizens of the state, while they may in one way
admire the governor's resolve, on the other hand are saying, 'Look,
folks, we expect you to act on this issue.'"

There is little time for Ehrlich to repair his relations with the
Assembly before members return for three months of work.

"He seems to be almost genetically incapable of compromise, which is
astounding," said Del. Kumar P. Barve of Montgomery County, the House
Democratic leader.

"He called us into town at a very inconvenient time, to solve a genuine
problem, and he is not willing to give an inch," Barve said. "He has
his eyes focused on his constituency base, instead of on the problem."

To Ehrlich, the condition was created by voters when they sent a
governor of one party and a legislature controlled by another to the
capital. Voters wanted change, he said, but the old guard is resisting.

"One person's dysfunctionality is another person's healthy
philosophical debate," Ehrlich said. "There's a different philosophy.
There is a different view of the world here. It's a view of the world
that is asking people downstairs [in the Assembly] to do things they
don't want to do."

Those divides rarely get traversed between the Ehrlich administration
and the legislature.

Since Ehrlich's election in 2002, the governor has repeatedly failed to
broker agreements that could lead to legislative approval of his
priorities. His slot-machine gambling plan has failed in the House of
Delegates for two years. Administration bills for tougher gun-crime
prosecution, faith-based initiatives, witness intimidation sanctions
and juvenile justice reforms all failed after what critics called
half-hearted lobbying efforts.

Ehrlich has had a few legislative victories, including passage of a tax
on sewer bills and septic bills to help pay for treatment plan
upgrades, and higher vehicle registration fees to finance road

The malpractice debate seemed an area particularly ripe for compromise.
Doctors and hospitals wanted lower insurance bills and limits on
lawsuits. Lawyers and victims wanted to make sure they received just
compensation for legitimate medical errors. The Assembly thought it was
passing a bill that balanced those needs.

"When you look at what the final product is, from a public policy
thing, I think the compromise is meaningful tort reform that doesn't go
overboard to gouge the consumer," said Sen. Thomas M. Middleton, a
moderate Democrat from Southern Maryland and chairman of the Finance

But Ehrlich's insistence that a 2 percent tax on HMO premiums could not
be part of the solution to subsidize rising insurance bills means "he
backs himself in the corner politically, and it becomes a contest of
who is going to win, and it becomes very disillusioning to me,"
Middleton said.

Republican Del. Anthony J. O'Donnell, the House minority whip from
Southern Maryland, said an entrenched legislative leadership continues
to buck Ehrlich because it feels no pressure to change. Media criticism
is unfairly focused on the governor, he said, when it is Busch, Miller
and their lieutenants who should be faulted.

"I believe the legislative leadership has demonstrated a continued
pattern of behavior of obstructionism," O'Donnell said, acknowledging
that the governor will face difficulties in enacting an agenda during
the remainder of his term.

"For the next two years, we [Republicans] are going to keep our nose to
the grindstone, we're going to keep working hard and leave these guys
to continue to expose themselves as the obstructionists that they are,"
he said. "That will lead to change at the ballot box in 2006."

Miller, the Senate president, said he will be able to work with Ehrlich
as long as the issue does not involve what he called "major
philosophical differences."

The current stalemate, Miller said, is caused by a Washington culture
that Ehrlich, a former four-term congressman, has brought to Annapolis.

"The governor trained for eight years under Newt Gingrich. It was a
confrontational style. They were battling with the Clinton
administration continuously. The theory was government was an evil,"
Miller said. "There is a totally different philosophy here in

Miller said the strong constitutional powers endowed upon Maryland's
governor might have diminished Ehrlich's appetite for compromise. The
governor can reward friends and punish enemies with the most
far-reaching budget authority of any state chief executive.

"When you have a conservative philosophy and you have that much power,
you wield a big stick," Miller said.

Increasingly, Democrats are frustrated that Ehrlich appears more
focused on scoring political points through media appearances than on
reaching solutions to important problems.

The special session, said Middleton, "was just a wonderful press
opportunity for the governor. Lots of press conferences, and a very,
very heightened media attention."

It was during a televised news conference Wednesday night that the
governor announced he would veto the malpractice bill. At the time, the
final version had not yet been printed, and even lawmakers were not
sure yet what a negotiating committee had agreed to.

"He wants to look like the hero that is not taxing the people, even
though he passed the property tax, he passed the car tax - talk about
regressive - he passed the flush tax, he passed 10,000 fees that are
taxes," said Sen. Paula C. Hollinger, a Baltimore County Democrat who
helped negotiate the final bill.

"If you look at the finished product, it is as good as you are going to
get if you are going to get 188 people to agree," she said. "This isn't
gridlock. This is pure, unadulterated politics."

It will be for voters to decide where the blame truly lies for the
failed initiative.

But Bambacus, the former GOP senator, said he knows who will get the
most attention:

"The governor, because he is the most visible elected leader in the
state, if he is seen as ineffective, it is going to be hard for him in
a one-party Democratic state for him to say it's the legislature's
Just call it Balti-PHUCKED
2005-01-02 00:19:19 UTC
Post by d***@yahoo.com
Ill feelings at the top hobble Md. governing
Gee, can't handle living in the city? MOVE YOU COWARD!
2005-01-06 22:24:36 UTC
Physicians urge governor not to veto malpractice bill
And this is a reason to urinate on the Governor's infant son?
2005-01-06 22:24:59 UTC
Physicians urge governor not to veto malpractice bill
And this is a reason.......
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-10 20:37:53 UTC
Sun protests barring of reporter

by Stephen Kiehl (Baltimore Sun Staff)

January 8, 2005

Lawyers for The Sun have asked the state attorney general's office to
warn Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. that actions to exclude the paper's
State House bureau chief from press events could be unconstitutional.

The Sun filed a federal lawsuit last month after Ehrlich's press office
issued an order banning state employees from speaking with bureau chief
David Nitkin or columnist Michael Olesker. The attorney general's
office, representing Ehrlich, filed a motion to dismiss late last
month, and The Sun in turn filed a motion for a preliminary injunction
to have the ban lifted.

A hearing on the motions has been scheduled Jan. 28 in federal court in

Last week, when Nitkin attempted to enter a briefing being held by the
governor, he was barred from entering by press secretary Greg Massoni
and told it was a private briefing, Nitkin said. All other reporters
were allowed in.

This week, when the governor scheduled a briefing on medical
malpractice legislation, reporters were called to an "invitation-only
press briefing." Nitkin did not receive an invitation; another Sun
reporter was invited.

Sun lawyer Charles D. Tobin sent a letter to lawyers in the state
attorney general's office this week protesting the actions. Tobin noted
that in the governor's motion to dismiss the case, the attorney
general's office wrote that Nitkin and Olesker "remain free ... to
attend press conferences."

Tobin later raised the issue during a conference call with U.S.
District Judge William D. Quarles, who is hearing the Sun case.

Yesterday, lawyers for the governor declined to comment on the
communication because of the continuing litigation.

George White, executive director of the Maryland-District of Columbia
Press Association, called Ehrlich's order and the reason for it
"ill-advised" yesterday and said the organization continues to hope it
will be rescinded. "As the top elected official in the state, the
Governor should protect the free flow of information to the public, not
inhibit it," said White in an e-mail to The Sun.

Tom Kunkel, dean of the journalism school at the University of
Maryland, also criticized the governor's action yesterday.

"If he's going to have essentially press conferences, I think it's not
all right for him to pick and choose who's there," Kunkel said in a
telephone interview. "Everybody knows what's going on here, which also
adds to the surreal quality of it. It would be silly except that it's
important because the press are surrogates for the public."
2005-01-10 21:17:49 UTC
Ehrlich vetoes legislation on malpractice reform
by Tom Stuckey, The Associated Press
Originally published January 10, 2005, 12:30 PM EST
Gee, Mark must spend a lot of time in the library on the internet!
Wonder if he wears a raincoat?
2005-01-13 22:49:46 UTC
Subject: Maryland Lawmakers RIP Governor Ehrlich a NEW
You posted this yesterday. Still doen't matter.
2005-01-13 22:50:27 UTC
In Ehrlich era, politics have plummeted into the personal
by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)
And this is a reason to urinate on the Governor's infant child?
2005-01-14 21:47:38 UTC
AS PROMISED, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. vetoed the medical
malpractice bill passed by the General Assembly during the
December special session.
And this is a reason to urinate on the Governor's infant child?
2005-01-18 22:22:57 UTC
Journalism groups back Sun's fight against ban
And this is a reason to urinate on the mayor's infant child?
2005-01-18 22:23:13 UTC
Temptation surrounded veto voting
And this is a reason to urinate on the mayor's infant child?
2005-01-19 22:10:39 UTC
THE U.S. NAVY'S decision not to pay Maryland's flush tax because
it's a tax and not a fee is too ironic to let pass without
This is an ANNAPOLIS Story, Mark. It relates to the Governor and
The US Navy, neither of which live or work in Baltimore.

Don't you usually limit your ranting to Baltimore city, where you
can't keep a job, or walk down the street?

After all these years, aren't you getting tired of having to sneak
into the library to look at porno sites and search for negative
stories about Baltimore?
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-26 16:49:53 UTC
Sun not damaged by administration order against 2 writers, governor's
lawyers say

by Stephanie Desmon (Baltimore Sun Staff)

January 21, 2005

The Sun has not been hindered by an Ehrlich administration order
barring state employees from talking to a reporter and columnist for
the paper, attorneys for the governor argued in papers filed in federal
court this week. The paper has been able to gather and disseminate news
much as before, they said.

The Sun filed a federal lawsuit last month after the press office of
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. issued an order barring state employees from
speaking with State House bureau chief David Nitkin or columnist
Michael Olesker.

The attorney general's office, representing Ehrlich, filed a motion to
dismiss the suit late last month, and The Sun in turn has filed a
motion for a preliminary injunction to have the ban lifted. A hearing
has been scheduled for next week in U.S. District Court in Baltimore.

"While the harm experienced by Mr. Nitkin and Mr. Olesker is
negligible, the harm experienced by their employer is so attenuated and
remote as to be undetectable," the papers argue.

Nitkin wrote 43 articles about state government in the eight weeks
before the Nov. 18 ban and 43 in the eight weeks since, according to
court papers. Other reporters have asked or e-mailed questions to state
officials on Nitkin's behalf, the papers say.

No special privileges

Journalists, the governor's attorneys said, do not have the right to
special privileges that go beyond what the general public enjoys.
Ordinary citizens would not typically have their calls promptly
returned by high government officials, the papers say.

Ehrlich's press office issued the order, asserting that the two writers
were "failing to objectively report" on state issues. Nitkin had
written a series of articles reporting on the state's proposed sale of
836 acres of preserved forest land in St. Mary's County to Willard
Hackerman, a politically connected construction company owner, for the
price that the state paid for it in 2003.


"It is unprecedented and inappropriate for a public official to
retaliate against a citizen for saying something he doesn't like," Sun
attorney Stephanie Abrutyn said yesterday. "The First Amendment
prohibits that."

Last week, some of the most prominent journalism organizations in
America filed a brief supporting The Sun's position in the case. They
argued that if permitted, the governor's action was likely to have a
chilling effect on smaller news organizations less able to deal with
having two journalists banned from talking to state employees.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-26 17:57:48 UTC
A poor prescription

January 23, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

CATHERINE "Kitty" Peak and her fellow seniors at the Overlea-Fullerton
Senior Center are none too happy. They've heard that Gov. Robert L.
Ehrlich Jr. wants to end Maryland's senior prescription drug program.
What will this mean to them? Perhaps hundreds of dollars in higher
pharmacy bills, and that has the center buzzing - and more than a
little fearful.

"Everyone's very concerned. You'd be surprised how many people are
giving up food for medicine," says Mrs. Peak, 69, a retired bank teller
who counsels fellow Baltimore County seniors on Medicare drug benefits.
"People wouldn't believe it, but it's happening every day."

Of all the surprises contained in the $25.9 billion state budget Mr.
Ehrlich proposed last week, his decision not to fully renew this
popular program may have been the most puzzling. Under his plan,
Maryland seniors will be shifted to the new Medicare drug benefit that
begins next Jan. 1. But for many, it won't be nearly as useful. Under
the federal program, the deductibles are expected to be higher and so
will the co-pays. Only very low-income seniors or those with
catastrophic health expenses (and annual drug bills in the neighborhood
of $5,000 or more) are likely to be satisfied with the change.

But here's the real puzzler: Cutting the senior benefit may not help
balance the state budget anyway. It's financed entirely by CareFirst
BlueCross BlueShield. That's right, the nonprofit spends $21 million
annually to help about 35,000 seniors across Maryland pay for their
prescription drugs. House Speaker Michael E. Busch helped create the
program years ago and sees its $21 million cost as the company's
payment in lieu of taxes. CareFirst doesn't pay the state's 2 percent
premium tax the way private, for-profit insurers do. It finances and
administers the prescription program for seniors instead.

It was a clever idea - and a way to minimize state government's
involvement. Eligible seniors (individuals earning up to $27,930) carry
around BlueCross BlueShield drug cards. They pay just $10 a month to be
in the program and receive prescription benefits of up to $1,100 a
year. Even when that benefit maxes out, they still pay BlueCross prices
for their drugs.

But Mr. Ehrlich's budget sees the savings going to the state to help
finance Medicaid's rising costs. How would this work? Ironically, it
amounts to billing CareFirst for the equivalent of a 2 percent premium
tax - the same tax the governor bitterly opposed when it was applied to
for-profit HMOs under the malpractice reform bill.

While Maryland's prescription drug benefit for seniors was never
envisioned as a permanent fix (and was set to expire this year), the
Medicare program isn't a desirable alternative.

Lawmakers think Mr. Ehrlich's proposal may be a bluff, a bargaining
chip with Annapolis Democrats. But if so, it's a foolish choice. Mr.
Ehrlich's decision is all the talk in Overlea. Seniors like Mrs. Peak
are angry - and they vote.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-28 20:36:26 UTC
State of mind

January 28, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

FIRST, THE moment of deja vu: Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. launched into
his annual State of the State address yesterday by asking for respect.
Ring any bells? That's right, he sounded downright Schaeferian. Not
necessarily the demanding-but-caring William Donald Schaefer. More like
the angry, syntactically challenged version of Maryland's elder
statesman. But at least, as he put it, the self-described
"plain-spoken" governor feels "passionate about politics." Somebody
better split these two up at Board of Public Works meetings. It's
starting to get weird.

Still, it's a shame Mr. Ehrlich felt so testy about the General
Assembly. It obscured his presentation of a legislative agenda that,
while modest in scope and ambition, is not without merit.

Among the most promising of Mr. Ehrlich's ideas is the so-called
children's initiative that would reform the beleaguered Department of
Juvenile Services, increase funding for foster care and day care for
the poor, and deinstitutionalize emotionally disturbed children. Mr.
Ehrlich also spoke of investing in police-related technology such as a
new DNA database of convicted criminals or an upgraded fingerprint
identification system. Sounds great. The governor said he would like to
put more restrictions on young drivers -- an idea that shouldn't find
opposition in Annapolis aside from errant 16-year-olds.

The governor offered other proposals of merit as well. We hope
lawmakers will pass the governor's bill to protect victims and
witnesses (including the controversial "hearsay exception" that would
allow out-of-court statements to be used at trial in certain cases).
They should also back his efforts to help promote and finance nonprofit
health clinics for the poor. Mr. Ehrlich's modest tax credits for film
production and research and development are worthy, if not exactly
groundbreaking, proposals. His lead-poisoning initiative addresses an
area of great need (although his decision to cut Baltimore's budget for
lead-paint enforcement suggests a flawed strategy).

The only outright clunker in the package is the governor's slot
machines bill, which would enrich a few and hurt many. The legislature
has killed this bill twice before. It's time to make it three.

As usual, Mr. Ehrlich articulated no grand vision for Maryland in the
21st century. Don't count on him to resolve the state's most nagging
problem, its long-term budget deficit, anytime soon. And the Chesapeake
Bay and issues of land use aren't getting much attention this year,
either. In general, the governor finds the state of Maryland to his
liking -- it's just opposing viewpoints he could do without. Mr.
Ehrlich concluded with a list of what he considers his greatest
accomplishments. It included new highway and transit spending, the
"flush tax" and drug treatment for prison inmates. He called them the
triumph of policy over politics. What he didn't mention was that these
were all ideas with broad appeal to Democrats. They represented the
triumph of moderation and compromise over executive obstinacy, a tactic
Mr. Ehrlich might find gets him more R-E-S-P-E-C-T.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-01-31 17:52:49 UTC
A poor prescription

January 23, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

CATHERINE "Kitty" Peak and her fellow seniors at the Overlea-Fullerton
Senior Center are none too happy. They've heard that Gov. Robert L.
Ehrlich Jr. wants to end Maryland's senior prescription drug program.
What will this mean to them? Perhaps hundreds of dollars in higher
pharmacy bills, and that has the center buzzing - and more than a
little fearful.

"Everyone's very concerned. You'd be surprised how many people are
giving up food for medicine," says Mrs. Peak, 69, a retired bank teller
who counsels fellow Baltimore County seniors on Medicare drug benefits.
"People wouldn't believe it, but it's happening every day."

Of all the surprises contained in the $25.9 billion state budget Mr.
Ehrlich proposed last week, his decision not to fully renew this
popular program may have been the most puzzling. Under his plan,
Maryland seniors will be shifted to the new Medicare drug benefit that
begins next Jan. 1. But for many, it won't be nearly as useful. Under
the federal program, the deductibles are expected to be higher and so
will the co-pays. Only very low-income seniors or those with
catastrophic health expenses (and annual drug bills in the neighborhood
of $5,000 or more) are likely to be satisfied with the change.

But here's the real puzzler: Cutting the senior benefit may not help
balance the state budget anyway. It's financed entirely by CareFirst
BlueCross BlueShield. That's right, the nonprofit spends $21 million
annually to help about 35,000 seniors across Maryland pay for their
prescription drugs. House Speaker Michael E. Busch helped create the
program years ago and sees its $21 million cost as the company's
payment in lieu of taxes. CareFirst doesn't pay the state's 2 percent
premium tax the way private, for-profit insurers do. It finances and
administers the prescription program for seniors instead.

It was a clever idea - and a way to minimize state government's
involvement. Eligible seniors (individuals earning up to $27,930) carry
around BlueCross BlueShield drug cards. They pay just $10 a month to be
in the program and receive prescription benefits of up to $1,100 a
year. Even when that benefit maxes out, they still pay BlueCross prices
for their drugs.

But Mr. Ehrlich's budget sees the savings going to the state to help
finance Medicaid's rising costs. How would this work? Ironically, it
amounts to billing CareFirst for the equivalent of a 2 percent premium
tax - the same tax the governor bitterly opposed when it was applied to
for-profit HMOs under the malpractice reform bill.

While Maryland's prescription drug benefit for seniors was never
envisioned as a permanent fix (and was set to expire this year), the
Medicare program isn't a desirable alternative.

Lawmakers think Mr. Ehrlich's proposal may be a bluff, a bargaining
chip with Annapolis Democrats. But if so, it's a foolish choice. Mr.
Ehrlich's decision is all the talk in Overlea. Seniors like Mrs. Peak
are angry - and they vote.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-01 14:45:36 UTC
Ehrlich's call for more civility, respect assumes short collective

by Michael Olesker

Originally published Feb 1, 2005

SINCE POLITICS is the art of behaving as if no one has any memory,
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. seems to have imagined himself speaking to an
audience of amnesiacs the other day. In his annual State of the State
address, the governor of Maryland presumed to lecture his General
Assembly on the fine points of civility and respect.

As witnessed by those in the State House and those agog in front of our
television sets, the governor used the word "respect" 13 times in all,
causing astute observers to note this was a record untouched apart from
some previously unknown mating of Aretha Franklin and Rodney

The repeated reference came in a sort of ad-libbed preamble to the main
body of his formal address, which resonated across the state with all
the majesty of a chamber of commerce luncheon chat.

But the "respect" part of the speech was something else. It went on for
a full six minutes. So you knew, against all logic and all previous
history, that Ehrlich wasn't kidding around. He talked about
legislators who try to "embarrass the governor." He complained about
"not playing the Capitol Hill game of demagoguing on personal ethics,"
and of "Capitol Hill assassin politics."

These are phrases that combine the best of hypocrisy and chutzpah, and
thus strike such a discordant note. They come from the very governor
who armed himself with the best of Capitol Hill attack politics en
route to election two years ago, and then planted them into Annapolis
himself, and now wishes everyone to suffer instant amnesia.

Or else he assumed he was talking to people who haven't been paying
much attention.

This is the man who ran for office loudly declaring a "culture of
corruption" in Annapolis while his own hand-picked U.S. attorney, the
since forced-from-office Thomas DiBiagio , conveniently opened a
sweeping investigation around Kathleen Kennedy Townsend that finally
resulted in a total of one indictment -- which was famously dropped --
against Stephen Amos, a career bureaucrat with a previously unblemished
reputation. All it did was nearly destroy poor Amos' life.

And this governor wants to bring up "assassin politics?"

This is the governor who accused House Speaker Michael Busch of
"playing the race card" because Busch dared to disagree with him on
slot machine legislation. And characterized Democratic Party appeals to
black voters as "racist."

And he wants to talk about "demagoguing?"

He's the governor who went on talk radio to call multiculturalism,
which is the very bedrock of the American melting pot, "crap" and

And he wants to talk about "respect"?

He's the man whose party took out slash-and-burn radio ads intended to
intimidate three Anne Arundel County Democrats on the eve of the recent
vote on medical malpractice insurance. And, when criticized for them,
hid behind John M. Kane, chairman of Maryland's Republican Party, who
publicly declared that Ehrlich had nothing at all to do with the ads,
since the governor and his party are certainly not the same thing.


For his State of the State address last week, Ehrlich's office set
aside gallery seats for top elected officials from around the state --
but not for Mayor Martin O'Malley or Montgomery County Executive Doug
Duncan. Was it just coincidental that these two want to challenge
Ehrlich for governor next year?

Or was this Ehrlich's idea of "respect"?

A few days before his "respect" remarks, the governor submitted a
proposed state budget that was immediately noteworthy for the money it
would not spread around. Baltimore, and all counties, would get average
spending increases of 10.1 percent under the governor's plan.

But Calvert County, home to Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, who
helped lead the override of Ehrlich's recent medical malpractice veto,
would get only a 3 percent increase. That's the lowest percentage
increase in the state, said Miller.

And Anne Arundel County, home to Speaker Busch, who has fought with
Ehrlich over slots for two years, gets only a 5.3 percent increase.
That's the second-lowest increase in the state.

"Retribution," Busch called it last week.

Then, a few days later, came Governor Ehrlich's big lecture on
"respect." He must have imagined all his listeners had amnesia.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-03 13:12:10 UTC
Ehrlich ponders end to race-based contracts

by Ivan Penn and David Nitkin (Baltimore Sun Staff)

Originally published February 3, 2005

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday said the Maryland program that
earmarks state work for minority-owned businesses "needs to end,"
echoing sharp criticism of the program by state Comptroller William
Donald Schaefer.

"When does MBE end -- E.N.D?" Schaefer asked during a pointed dialogue
about the state's Minority Business Enterprise program at yesterday's
Board of Public Works meeting. "The law says it is not supposed to be a
permanent program."

"Do you want the legal answer, or the political answer?" Ehrlich
replied, adding that discussing the end of such programs would be
politically dangerous.

"Race politics is ugly," he said.

"It needs to end, we know that," he said of the set-aside program. "But
for many years it was a joke, and it exacerbated racial tension."

Their statements angered some Annapolis lawmakers and minority business

"We don't need comments like that," said Sen. Joan Carter Conway, a
Northeast Baltimore Democrat, who said that -- until yesterday -- she
believed the administration was "heading in the right direction." She
said minority set-asides would not be necessary if the state "were fair
in the allocations of the contracts."

In the past, the governor "has expressed to the black caucus his
interest in helping the MBE program ... Evidently it was just lip
service," said Del. Rudolph C. Cane, an Eastern Shore Democrat and
chairman of the Legislative Black Caucus.

Henry Fawell, an Ehrlich spokesman, said the governor's comments
referred to his long-term goal of creating a race-neutral process. For
now, Fawell said, the governor supports the state's minority business

"No one should doubt his commitment to a strong MBE program in the
short term," Fawell said. "I'm definitely not aware of any plans,
discussions or proposals to end it now."

Ehrlich's and Schaefer's discussion yesterday came after the board
awarded a $671,865 contract to a minority firm, Colossal Contractors
Inc. The company's bid tied with that of another firm, but Colossal won
because, under a state rule, ties favor minority firms.

Schaefer then questioned the rule.

"When does discrimination like this end?" Schaefer asked.

The comptroller said he knew his remarks would make him a target of

"They'll bust my bottom -- 'How dare you say something like this,'"
Schaefer said. "Everybody is scared to death of the race situation."

But Ehrlich continued pressing the issue.

"This is a good discussion to have," Ehrlich said, adding that his
administration's minority business initiatives have moved the state
toward what he called "our collective goal, which is to end this
program at a certain point in time."

In general, Maryland's minority set-aside program requires that 25
percent of state procurement contracts go to minority-owned firms.

But a legislative audit in 2001 found that many state agencies
overstated their minority participation numbers.

The state later reported that in 2002 just 16.2 percent of the
procurement work was going to minority firms. The Maryland Office of
Minority Affairs estimated that the minority share probably was closer
to 10 percent.

A year ago, the Ehrlich administration successfully pushed for
legislation that expanded efforts to help minority firms with a measure
that was race-neutral.

Since then, such agencies as the Maryland Aviation Administration have
reported substantial increases in minority participation.

During the first quarter of fiscal year 2005, which began July 1, the
aviation administration awarded 54 percent of its work, or $51 million
in contracts, to "disadvantaged business enterprises," said Jonathan
Dean, a spokesman for Baltimore-Washington International Airport. By
comparison, 25 percent of contracts were awarded to disadvantaged
businesses in the previous fiscal year.

But Conway said yesterday's comments about Colossal Contractors
highlight the need for a minority business program. She said she
believes Colossal never would have received the contract, if it had not
been for the rule about ties favoring minority firms.

The discussion that followed the awarding of the contract was an
indication that Schaefer and Ehrlich wanted to give the contract to
another firm, Conway said.

Arnold Jolivet, president of the American Minority Contractors and
Businesses Association Inc., a Washington, D.C., firm that claims 800
Maryland members, said Maryland's procurement process continues to
exclude minorities.

Yesterday's board agenda, for example, listed an "emergency" item -- a
designation that allows officials to seek bids without a general
request for proposals or minority consideration. The $1 million
contract to provide security for the Maryland Port Authority should
have been openly bid, Jolivet said.

"Even if it was an emergency, it really wouldn't preclude them from
reaching out to the minority contractors," Jolivet said. "If they still
discriminate as blatantly as they are here, how can anyone say there is
no need for an MBE program?"

Garland O. Williamson, an Ehrlich campaign supporter and head of the
Presidents' Roundtable, a group of black business leaders, said he
believes Ehrlich is committed to the MBE program. He said he hopes that
commitment continues, unless there truly is a race-neutral process that
distributes contracts equitably.

"I don't know what the governor said because I wasn't there,"
Williamson said. "In conversations with me, he has said he is committed
to minority businesses. The governor made it a campaign promise."

Yesterday's comments came at a bimonthly board meeting that Schaefer
frequently uses to explore topics on his mind -- and where his
impolitic remarks frequently gain attention.

A notable example occurred in May, when Schaefer began a board meeting
with a denunciation of an employee at an Anne Arundel County McDonald's
restaurant whose limited English skills delayed his breakfast order.

Ehrlich was not at that meeting, but responded to Schaefer's comments
the next day on a radio show, calling the concept of multiculturalism
"bunk" and "crap."

Last October, Schaefer told a state health official that the department
should develop a registry of patients with HIV and AIDS because they
posed a danger to themselves and others. Several lawmakers called for
his resignation, but in that case, Ehrlich stayed out of the fray.

His remarks sometimes have drawn cries for the comptroller's
resignation, but supporters have rallied to his defense, printing
bumper stickers that read: "He says what you think."
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-04 14:54:32 UTC
Ehrlich scrambles to quell ire over remarks

by Ivan Penn (Baltimore Sun Staff)

Originally published February 4, 2005

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. scrambled to calm growing anger yesterday
over his comments earlier this week about one day ending Maryland's
program to increase minority participation in state contracts.

In one closed-door meeting after another, Ehrlich tried to assure
lawmakers - many of whom plan to voice their concerns at a noon news
conference today - that he is committed to the state's Minority
Business Enterprise program and has worked to expand it.

"The comments arose out of [Comptroller William Donald Schaefer's]
consistent and persistent questioning about when the MBE program should
end," Ehrlich told reporters, referring to statements at Wednesday's
Board of Public Works meeting. "I pointed out to the comptroller that
the logical goal of the program is to end at some point, but we're
simply not there yet.

"There continues to be an uneven playing field," he said of minority
access to state contracts. "As a result, our administration has put a
lot of time, energy and political capital into making the program

Schaefer raised concerns about the state initiatives to increase
minority participation in state work by asking during a discussion
Wednesday: "When does MBE end - E.N.D? ... When does discrimination
like this end?"

Ehrlich said during the dialogue that the goal "is to end this program
at a certain point in time." But the governor did not give any time

After reading a newspaper account of Ehrlich's and Schaefer's
discussion, Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller told members of the
Legislative Black Caucus at a meeting yesterday that he thought the
comments were "unbelievable."

"Not only do we need to keep MBE in place, we have to foster it and
grow it," Miller told the caucus. "The Democratic Party is going to
stand with you."

Members of the caucus said they will continue the fight for the MBE
program until everyone has a fair shot at state work.

"When will there be an end to this? When the intended purposes are
being met," said Del. Jill P. Carter, a Northwest Baltimore Democrat.

While the state has made some progress in its efforts to include
minorities and women in state work, lawmakers and business leaders said
most contracts continue to go to firms owned by white men. They said
there should be no discussion about ending the MBE program at this

The Ehrlich administration said the governor's comments were taken out
of context and that he has no intention of retreating from his
commitment to minority businesses.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele, who has been the governor's point man on
minority and small businesses, declined repeated requests for an
interview. But he issued a statement yesterday defending the
administration's position.

"This administration's commitment to Minority Business Enterprise is
absolute and at no time and under no circumstances has anyone from our
administration considered, pondered or discussed the elimination of the
MBE program," Steele wrote. "Our actions speak to our support for and
efforts on behalf of all minority businesses in Maryland."

Sharon R. Pinder, special secretary of the governor's Office of
Minority Affairs, said Ehrlich's support for minority businesses can be
seen in the fiscal year 2006 budget. She said her office is slated to
receive $1.1 million - a more-than $800,000 increase over two years
ago, when Ehrlich took office.

Pinder said there are "a whole trainload of efforts geared toward
minority businesses."

But with Ehrlich's and Schaefer's discussion, business leaders who had
been strong supporters of the governor still questioned his commitment
to minority business.

"The conservative wing of the Republican Party believes that black
business is doing well," said Wayne Frazier, president of the
Baltimore-based Maryland-Washington Minority Contractors' Association
Inc., and the former head of Democrats for Ehrlich.

"We've had some recent success stories where minority contractors,
minority-owned businesses have been winning multi-million dollar
procurements," Frazier said. "However, those who are winning those
multi-million dollar contracts probably represent less than 1 percent
of all minority businesses."

Robert Clay, an African-American contractor and former member of a
commission set up by Ehrlich to review issues related to minority
businesses, said black businesses in particular continue to lag behind
other firms in obtaining state work.

Clay said African-Americans first pushed for the changes in Maryland
law to establish the MBE program when it was created in 1978.

At that time, the state set a goal of 10 percent minority participation
in state contracts, state officials said. By 2001, that percentage had
been increased to 25 percent through the efforts of then-Gov. Parris N.

Last year, Ehrlich established several initiatives that emerged from
the commission of which Clay was a part, including a program that
targeted all small businesses. All state agencies now are required to
reserve two small procurement contracts for small businesses,
regardless of the race or gender of the firms' owners.

Clay praised those efforts but called the discussion of ending MBE
program "a sad day for black businesses in this state."
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-07 21:46:11 UTC
Ehrlich makes 2005 the Year of the Free Lunch

by C. Fraser Smith (Ba;timore Sun contributer)

February 6, 2005

GOV. ROBERT L. Ehrlich Jr. is calling 2005 "the Year of the Child." Who
could object?

But others will have different labels.

Maybe it's the Year of Bait-and-Switch. A few days before releasing his
budget, the governor announced a grand new program to attack lead
poisoning in children. The budget document revealed a cut of up to
$375,000 in lead-poisoning funds for Baltimore.

It's definitely the Year of Having It Both Ways. You have a news
conference announcing your support of lead-paint eradication around the
state. You hail two of the state's lead eradication advocates during
your State of the State address. Then you cut the budget.

What's going on? The administration says it's not about the money, it's
about the results.

Again, there's another view of the strategy.

"You hope people remember your press conference on the new initiative
and forget your budget cut," says Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg, one of the
lead-paint leaders mentioned in the governor's speech.

Or maybe it's the Year of Cannibalization, a year in which this or that
program survives at the expense of this or that other program.
Shortfalls in Medicaid may be cured at the expense of cancer research
programs at the Johns Hopkins and University of Maryland hospitals.

Or maybe it's just another Year of Smoke and Mirrors. The governor and
his team are taking credit for the largest infusion of education money
in history. It's a big-ticket item approved by the Democrat-controlled
General Assembly the year before Mr. Ehrlich's election. He promised to
support it, and he is. But it's a mammoth program that needs a mammoth
revenue stream. The Democrats didn't provide one, and neither has
Governor Ehrlich.

But no one thought Maryland would sacrifice important programs such as
cancer research. Massive new school aid demands more money from
taxpayers - if they still believe in public education. And that is a
recurrent theme: Without new revenue from taxes, which Mr. Ehrlich
rejects, spending will have to be reduced. Services, too.

How about those state employees, for example? On the one hand, they get
a 2 percent increase in pay. At the same time, they're asked to pay
more for health insurance. We're all paying more for health insurance,
but don't call standing still an increase.

Or maybe it's the Year of the Credit-taking Contortion: After Mr.
Ehrlich vetoed the General Assembly's medical malpractice bill, he's
taking credit for providing funds to increase payments to doctors in
the Medicaid program. The increase was part of the malpractice bill he
vetoed and the General Assembly pushed into law over his opposition.

And don't be surprised when more labels are needed. One budget analyst
says the document is replete with bewildering "takes and puts" yet to
be digested. People whose programs have been helped or hurt may still
not know their fate. Even those programs that were helped won't have
been helped enough, in some cases, to stay even with cost-of-living
increases or increases in eligibility. Higher education in Maryland,
hit with big cuts over the last two years, got a $42 million infusion
this year. As a result, tuition only had to go up 5 percent or so.

You have to say this, though. The money's being spread around in ways
that could pit various interests against each other - and against
themselves. Social service agencies may wish to form coalitions of
protest, assembling angry throngs in front of the State House. But
who'll join? How much complaining should you do if you've gotten an
increase, even if it's not enough to do the job?

Maybe what we're seeing is the first year of real government downsizing
under this Republican administration. Some have rushed about trying to
find a rationale for cutting things such as cancer research. If it's
about making government smaller, they can save their energy. Downsizing
is its own rationale.

Meanwhile, we're told cancer research can go forward on half the money.
So maybe it's the Year of the Free Lunch.

C. Fraser Smith is news director for WYPR-FM. His column appears
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-10 01:06:39 UTC
Ehrlich associate targeted O'Malley

by David Nitkin and Andrew A. Green (Baltimore Sun Staff)

Originally published February 9, 2005

A longtime campaign operative of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. resigned
his state job yesterday after admitting he had been spreading rumors on
the Internet about the personal life of Baltimore Mayor Martin

Joseph Steffen, 45, said he gave the governor his resignation after
questions about his postings on www.FreeRepublic.com, a well-known
conservative Web site. The postings discussed O'Malley's marriage.

"The governor had no idea," Steffen said. "I don't even think he knows
where the Web site is. If anyone is guilty, it is me. There was no
outside influence. It was all me."

The postings about O'Malley from a longtime Ehrlich aide carry
particular significance because the mayor is expected to seek the
Democratic nomination for governor next year and likely would challenge
the incumbent.

The race is expected to be close, and the opposing camps are already
jockeying for advantage.

Steffen is a longtime ally of the governor who had worked on several of
Ehrlich's congressional campaigns. Democrats say he has earned a
reputation in several state agencies as a sharply partisan appointee
who was feared as he sought personal information about state workers
and demanded that they be fired.

Ehrlich Communications Director Paul E. Schurick said the governor
learned about Steffen's postings on the Web site late yesterday
afternoon and was "extremely troubled by it."

"The governor made that clear publicly and privately. The governor
never will support or condone such behavior and never has. It is

Steffen said he went to his boss, Insurance Commissioner Alfred W.
Redmer Jr., and told him that he would have to resign.

"He winced," Steffen said of Redmer's reaction. Redmer is an Ehrlich
appointee, former state delegate and House minority leader.

Next, Steffen said, he called Ehrlich administration officials to
inform them of his pending resignation.

"They were basically like, 'If you think that's what you need to do,'"
Steffen said.

He resigned shortly thereafter, Schurick said.

Schurick said he did not know whether Steffen had ever engaged in any
other similar behavior.

"It doesn't matter," Schurick said. "It, in and of itself, is
intolerable to the governor."

O'Malley could not be reached for comment last night.

"It is despicable and no family should ever have to endure these kinds
of lies and this type of smear campaign just because their father holds
a public office," said Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for O'Malley. "The
mayor's marriage is strong."

O'Malley's father-in-law, Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran
Jr., decried the rumors and lamented their impact on his daughter's
family. Curran's daughter, Catherine, a city District Court judge, is
married to O'Malley.

"It is an outrage that people practice the politics of destruction
rather than the politics of good government. I'm outraged that these
things go on," Curran said.

"We always knew it [the rumor] was false, because Martin and Katie have
such a strong and loving relationship. Everyone knew they were false.
It is hurtful when you see your own daughter hurt. I'm upset when
people in politics do such terrible things," Curran said.

"We didn't know where it was coming from, to be honest with you,"
Curran said. "I heard rumors about who it might have been. I just
wanted it to stop. I had some idea who it might be coming from."

O'Malley and his staff have been reluctant to discuss the marital
rumors, which have been swirling for months.

But the mayor alluded to the speculation shortly after his re-election
in November, in a discussion about former Police Commissioner Kevin P.

"There have been, in the course of this new sort of character-smear
style of politics, numerous allegations pushed about me," O'Malley
said. "Does that say something about me or about the person making the

Until yesterday, Steffen had been director of communications at the
Maryland Insurance Administration. He had worked previously in the
state Department of Human Resources and the Department of Juvenile
Services, all since Ehrlich took office in January 2003.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said last night that he had never met
Steffen but knew him by reputation, referring to him as "The Turk" - a
National Football League term for a team official dreaded during
training camp because he delivers the news that players have been cut.

"It's a new low in government," Busch said, referring to how Steffen
operated in various agencies. "It's a Gestapo-like mentality that
becomes instilled in government. ... It sends a chilling message to
people who have dedicated their life to public service."

Told that Ehrlich had accepted Steffen's resignation, the speaker said:
"Clearly his sin was not crossing the line.

"Clearly his sin was getting caught."

Steffen, a Rosedale resident, denied last night that he acted as some
kind of covert operative for the governor.

Asked whether he was told to ferret out Democrats in state agencies and
departments, Steffen said: "Absolutely not." He said, for example, that
he did not know that Democratic Baltimore County Councilman Vincent J.
Gardina had been paid $100,000 to settle a lawsuit stemming from his
firing from a state job until he read about it in The Sun.

"I had no idea until today that he was even let go," Steffen said. "I
had no idea that he was even hired."

He said he moved to various agencies to work on "different tasks" that
the governor asked of him.

Steffen said his resignation was prompted by a visit yesterday from a
Washington Post reporter armed with the Web site postings. He used the
handle "ncpac" while writing on the Web site.

"I could see where the reporter was trying to go with the story, and I
was not going to allow that to happen," he said. "I have regrets for
doing something that I obviously shouldn't have done. And I have
regrets that the governor may take a hit because of it."

The Internet name "ncpac" is a reference to the National Conservative
Political Action Committee, which was active in the early 1980s and,
according to the Associated Press, spent "hundreds of thousands of
dollars on tough 'negative advertising' in a bid to make a supposedly
liberal Democratic politician more vulnerable at the polls."

Steffen was a spokesman for the committee in the 1980s, and by 1984 he
was working on a Republican congressional campaign in Virginia.

Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele said he learned of the resignation last
night, and he condemned the rumor-spreading.

"It's unfortunate. It's ignorant. It's not something this
administration condones," Steele said.

Gerry Brewster, a Towson Democrat who ran against Ehrlich in the
governor's first congressional election in 1994, said Steffen was well
known as "the dirty tricks operative" of Ehrlich's campaign.

Steffen said he would be returning to his office at the Maryland
Insurance Administration today to clean out his desk and write his
resignation letter.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-10 01:20:28 UTC
Generous to a fault

February 8, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

BALTIMORE County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina and his attorney are
$100,000 richer today. No doubt there's a shiny new car in somebody's
future. It's a less fortuitous event for Maryland taxpayers. They're
the ones getting stuck for the bill. And whom do we have to thank?
Nobody's rushed forward to take credit, but this much is clear: The
Ehrlich administration has some explaining to do.

Mr. Gardina was fired in 2003 from a $56,000 post within the Maryland
Environmental Service. Trouble is, his bosses say he was doing a great
job. Politics had nothing to do with his hiring: He got the job after
Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took office. But at some point, the Ehrlich
inner circle found out that a prominent Democrat was on the state
payroll. And even though the MES is an independent agency and Mr.
Gardina was not in a patronage job, he got the ax. And guess what?
That's against the law.

At least that's what Mr. Gardina's lawsuit alleged. And Mr. Ehrlich's
aides aren't contradicting this account. In fact, they're not talking
much about it at all - even though Mr. Gardina has waived his privacy
rights. Daniel M. Clements, Mr. Gardina's attorney, notes that the
state's settlement offer came on the eve of depositions - when he was
going to find out exactly who ordered Mr. Gardina's firing.

We recognize that Mr. Ehrlich has a right to appoint whom he wants in
policy jobs. His staff even has the right to make mistakes (like
ignoring a midlevel bureaucrat's constitutional rights). They even had
the right to fire Mr. Gardina without giving cause - just not because
of his political affiliation. But paying out $100,000 to Mr. Gardina in
order to avoid political embarrassment? That's an even bigger political

The episode fits a pattern of bumbled personnel actions from the Public
Service Commission to the Maryland State Board of Elections. In all
these illegal firings, somebody needs to be held accountable. Taxpayers
deserve a little respect, too.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-10 13:07:09 UTC
Today, apology drains regret of responsibility

by Andrew A. Green (Baltimore Sun Staff)

Originally published February 10, 2005

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. insists he knew nothing about a staff
member's spreading allegations online about Mayor Martin O'Malley's
personal life. He immediately demanded the man's resignation and has
publicly repudiated his actions.

But when usually Ehrlich-friendly local talk radio took up the issue of
longtime aide Joseph Steffen's actions yesterday morning, the buzz was
that the governor needed to do one more thing: Say he's sorry.

"He should apologize for what [Steffen] did," WBAL morning host Chip
Franklin said on his show yesterday.

Ehrlich said yesterday that he told Steffen to apologize immediately to
the mayor, and Ehrlich said he would not issue a personal apology to

"I don't think that's appropriate because I didn't have any knowledge
of it," Ehrlich said.

A Washington Post article yesterday said that O'Malley had called on
Ehrlich to apologize but O'Malley has not publicly repeated the

At times, political apologies have been crucial in salvaging careers,
but experts and political observers were divided about whether this is
one of those times.

Democrats, many of whom said they did not believe Steffen acted without
the knowledge of higher-ups, said yesterday that Ehrlich needs to
publicly apologize to the mayor.

"He needs to take responsibility for what his people do, for what his
political appointees do," said House Majority Leader Kumar P. Barve, a
Montgomery County Democrat.

But former Gov. Marvin Mandel - no stranger to political scandal
himself - said it's unreasonable to expect the governor to apologize
for something a member of his staff did.

"No governor knows what 80,000 state employees are doing. You can't be
responsible for the mistakes of every state employee," he said. "Why
should you be required to apologize for something you didn't do?"

Stephen E. Lucas, a professor of communication at the University of
Wisconsin, said a classical political apology is a refutation of
charges and does not necessarily involve the politician saying he is

In this case, Ehrlich has offered his defense against Democrats'
charges by saying he did not know of Steffen's activities and
repudiated him.

The model political apology is then-vice presidential candidate Richard
Nixon's "Checkers" speech in 1952, Lucas said.

Nixon denied accusations that he had taken $18,000 from supporters for
his personal use but admitted keeping the gift of a black-and-white
cocker spaniel his daughter named Checkers.

Subsequent political apologies, such as Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's
explanation of a car accident in which a young woman drowned and
several of President Bill Clinton's efforts to deflect the Monica
Lewinsky scandal, were less effective, not because of their lack of
contrition but because they did not include a persuasive refutation of
charges, Lucas said:

"If you have to say 'I'm sorry,' it's an admission of guilt."

P.M. Forni, a co-founder of the Johns Hopkins University Civility
Project, said a looser definition of "apology" has crept into European
and American life in recent years, in which people say they are sorry
for things they didn't do. Catholic leaders of today can apologize for
misdeeds of the church's past, and President Clinton can apologize for
American slavery, he said.

"Using the notion of apology in the looser way ... you can say, 'I'm
apologizing on behalf of my employee.' This would be a step in the
right direction from the point of view of those who claim the governor
should apologize. I'm not sure that would satisfy them completely,"
Forni said.

Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer Jr., who was Steffen's
supervisor, did make that sort of expression of regret. He said he
called O'Malley and the mayor's father-in-law, Maryland Attorney
General J. Joseph Curran Jr., to apologize yesterday.

"I just wanted to express personally my regrets that what happened
happened," Redmer said. "I would have called with the same regret
whether he [Steffen] worked here or didn't work here. ... I don't have
a lot of patience for that kind of activity. I've got a wife and I've
got kids and nobody's more protective of their family than I am, so I
feel for him."

Steffen, however, continued posting messages on the Internet in the
hours after he was dismissed, suggesting he was not entirely contrite.

"It wasn't even THAT big of a deal, as concerns what I actually said in
the post," Steffen wrote on the Web site www.FreeRepublic.com just
before 1 a.m. yesterday. "I didn't start any rumor, I was commenting on
rumors that were out there. What IS a big deal is the perception - and
the fact O'Malley would have hammered the Governor over the head with
me for the next 20 months."

Later, he wrote of the incident, "This might even burnish my

It was also unclear how much regret Ehrlich administration officials
felt. After the governor spoke to reporters yesterday morning, his
press secretary, Greg Massoni, asked what had happened at the news
conference O'Malley had just held.

A reporter recounted a story, told at the O'Malley event by the mayor's
wife, in which the couple's son asked that both parents sign his report
card to prove to his classmates that his parents were still married.

Massoni, grinning, cocked his head to the side and wiped away an
imaginary tear.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-10 13:18:44 UTC
Dirty tricks redux

Originally published February 10, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

GOV. ROBERT L. Ehrlich Jr., who has apologized for using the word
"crap" in public, yesterday declined to apologize for the horse manure
a top hatchet man has been spreading about Baltimore Mayor Martin
O'Malley. And while it's all very good that the governor "is open" to
investigating whether others on the state payroll are spreading vicious
rumors for political gain, the task may fall to the underfunded and
generally toothless state prosecutor's office. Mr. Ehrlich may find
rumor-mongering "intolerable," but his behavior is reminiscent of
Captain Renault, who is "shocked, shocked" to discover gambling in

This much is certain: Mr. Ehrlich knows when it's time to distance
himself from a blown campaign operative. He disavowed the actions of
longtime aide Joseph "NCPAC" Steffen as soon as the press got wind of
them. Mr. Steffen repeatedly posted messages on a popular political Web
site detailing some salacious (and untrue, but why would that stop a
zealot?) rumors about the mayor. When confronted by a reporter, Mr.
Steffen promptly resigned. Mr. Ehrlich now says he was fired.

But does anyone believe that the smear campaign against the popular Mr.
O'Malley, a potential candidate for governor in 2006, isn't politically
motivated? Here's what Mr. Steffen told The Washington Post when asked
if his postings were part of an organized effort to keep anti-O'Malley
rumors afloat: "No comment." What does this mean? Probably this: Mr.
Steffen is willing to admit to his libelous postings; he's not ready to
rat out others.

Doesn't that sound like Donald Segretti, who once faked a letter
claiming Henry "Scoop" Jackson fathered an illegitimate child? In fact,
doesn't Mr. Ehrlich's press-bashing and blacklisting, dirty tricks and
ferreting out disloyal employees sound like Richard M. Nixon?

Granted, there's at least one profound difference between the two men
-- Mr. Nixon got more done.

Last month, Mr. Ehrlich lectured the General Assembly about the need
for greater civility and an end to "assassin" politics. Mr. Steffen's
actions suggest Mr. Ehrlich was talking to the wrong group of people.
He needs to lecture his own staff first. Maybe then he'll be more
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-17 14:58:17 UTC
'Dirty tricks' allegations dot Ehrlich's past

by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)

February 11, 2005

ON THE DAY Official State Dirtball Joseph Steffen admitted spreading
stories to humiliate Mayor Martin O'Malley and his family, Gov. Robert
L. Ehrlich Jr. appeared on WBAL-TV news, where he was asked by reporter
Dave Collins, "Have you known about this rumor?"

"No, absolutely not," said Ehrlich with a straight face.

Imagine the effort that must have taken. Imagine the faith in people's
sheer childlike naivete to stand in front of a TV camera and say such
words in an effort to distance yourself from this disgrace.

If the governor of Maryland did not hear the rumors about the mayor of
Baltimore's alleged extramarital sex life, and the alleged breakup of
his marriage, then Ehrlich might be the last living adult in the entire
state not to have heard them.

In Annapolis taverns, they talk about it. In schools attended by
O'Malley's children, they whisper about it. In Towson shopping malls
and Ellicott City restaurants and Bel Air grocery stores and the beach
at Ocean City people talk about it. My 80-year old mother has said,
"The ladies at the senior citizen center keep asking about it." Outside
City Hall this week, Councilman Robert Curran said, "I've had people
approach me in the food store, the barbershop, on the street. I even
had family members ask me if I know anything about it."

And Curran is related to the O'Malleys.

Who hasn't heard the rumors? Only the governor of Maryland, who says he
never heard a word of it, and never imagined one of his longtime
political operatives might have been behind such a thing -- not even
this Steffen, who is proud to call himself the Prince of Darkness for
all the damage he has inflicted over the years.

Is this the point where Ehrlich delivers another of his self-righteous
speeches about bringing "respect" back to politics? Is this where he
lectures us again about not bringing "Capitol Hill assassin politics"
to Annapolis? By his own assertion, it's not the point where he's
showing "respect" and issuing an apology to the O'Malleys.

For months, O'Malley has made it a point to have his wife with him in
public. They looked affectionate and held each other's hands. It was a
nice, Norman Rockwell-look of marital happiness. But it was painful,

Everybody knew why they had to do it -- and they knew that everybody

And so, in spite of any genuine feeling the two O'Malleys have for each
other, it became a kind of self-conscious charade in which everyone who
had heard the rumor understood the public dance that was being

One of the rumors had the O'Malleys' marriage over and the four kids
living with her father, Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.

"You know where that came from?" Councilman Robert Curran said, moments
before Wednesday's O'Malley news conference. "It came from weekends
when the kids were staying with their grandparents. Can you imagine
that? Kids stay with their grandparents, and they make it into a story
about the parents getting divorced."

So we know now a source of many of these rumors. But the question
remains: Who else took part? And who else had knowledge?

In e-mails given to The Washington Post, Steffen had written: "A lot of
the reason that everyone knows [O'Malley's] history is because of what
has gone on beneath the surface. ... A few folks put in a lot of effort
to ensure the story got some real float."

A few folks?

Asked by the Post whether he was part of an organized effort to
disseminate the rumors, Steffen said: "No comment."

Well, there is a history here. From his first political campaign,
nearly two decades ago, when he ran for a seat in the House of
Delegates, Ehrlich said he wanted to "make a new beginning for the
Maryland Republican Party." Some beginning. For openers, he went after
a vulnerable Republican incumbent, Del. Thomas W. Chamberlain, so
harshly that Chamberlain accused Ehrlich of being "deliberately
divisive" and using "dirty tricks."

"How long could you keep your job if you didn't show up for work 28
times?" an Ehrlich campaign brochure asked about Chamberlain.
Supposedly, Chamberlain had missed that many days at work. Actually, he
had missed that many votes, not days of work, and the 28 missed votes
were accumulated over 12 years.

But that was just a warm-up act. By the time he ran for Congress,
Ehrlich had Dirtball Steffen working for him. That's when salacious
rumors were floated about Democratic opponent Gerry L. Brewster. Dirty
tricks, Brewster called them. Two years later, when Ehrlich ran against
former state Del. Connie DeJuliis, there were ugly rumors spread about
her. Dirty tricks, DeJuliis said.

Two days ago, when Mayor O'Malley and his wife held their news
conference outside City Hall, there was an odd juxtaposition. If you
looked directly past the O'Malleys, a short block away were the lights
of the Sweden Book Store and the Hustler Club and the rest of
Baltimore's Block.

In a time of political pornography, the positioning seemed appropriate.
Except that, compared with the likes of Steffen, regulars on The Block
seem like church deacons. At least they don't go after a man's family.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-18 16:42:20 UTC
The big chill

February 16, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

THESE ARE sad days for those of us who cherish the First Amendment. It
was bad enough when, in a moment of unrestrained hubris, Gov. Robert L.
Ehrlich Jr. decided last fall he could pick and choose who is worthy of
access to state government information and who is not. On Monday, U.S.
District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. gave this foolish and
undemocratic notion a legitimacy it never deserved. By dismissing this
newspaper's lawsuit against Mr. Ehrlich, Judge Quarles has unleashed
the potential for all manner of petty despotism upon the electorate.

Let us make one thing clear from the outset - The Sun never sought any
special privilege. This newspaper has pursued the same rights afforded
any citizen. In a sense, The Sun serves as a proxy for its hundreds of
thousands of readers, most of whom have a direct stake in state
government. Mr. Ehrlich and his staff have the right to decline to be
interviewed. They can even restrict their media appearances to friendly
electronic venues with their fawning interviewers and powder-puff
questions. It's not a particularly responsible or courageous policy,
but it's a governor's prerogative.

But neither this nor any other governor has the authority to
unilaterally ban state employees from speaking to two individuals. Mr.
Ehrlich himself has characterized his Nov. 18 order turning reporter
David Nitkin and columnist Michael Olesker into official personae non
gratae as an effort to cast a chill on media coverage of his
administration. No matter what Judge Quarles' intent, his decision can
only serve to lower the temperature further.

Make no mistake, Mr. Ehrlich's choice to blacklist these two
journalists was based on the content of their writings. In particular,
the governor didn't like details of his secret land sale in St. Mary's
County appearing in print. It's hard to blame him. But facts are facts,
and Mr. Ehrlich's sweetheart deal died on the vine. He can't be allowed
to achieve retribution by abusing his executive authority. What's to
stop him or his successors from similarly cutting off all newspaper
reporters from access to state government at the slightest provocation?
At the moment, it appears nothing.

This isn't a matter of Democratic or Republican politics, liberal or
conservative viewpoints. Simple common sense tells us that government
officials should not be allowed to decide who covers them. If they can,
the consequences will be disastrous. Reporters and columnists can't be
effective if they operate under the constant threat: Write what we like
or lose your right to information from the government.

Could The Sun continue responsibly reporting on the machinations of
state government under the current circumstances? Probably. But a
bigger issue is at stake. It's no less than the fundamental right to a
free press - and to equal protection of all citizens under the law. The
Sun has no choice but to appeal Judge Quarles' ruling. We owe that much
to our profession and to our readers.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-25 18:07:23 UTC
Writer speaks in anger for Beth Steel workers when others go silent

by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)

February 22, 2005

MARK Reutter's one of our great angry voices. He's moving around town
these days talking about his book, Making Steel: Sparrows Point and the
Rise and Ruin of American Industrial Might. It's about capitalism when
its cruelties go unchecked, about management greed and the collapse of
labor unions, and thousands of workers who were wounded while
politicians went silent. Too bad they didn't seem to share Reutter's
anger while there was still time.

The book's an update on a continuing disgrace. Originally written in
1988, when American steelworker jobs had dropped in a decade from
560,000 to 280,000, and the jobs at Sparrows Point were vanishing, the
book was updated after the disastrous events of January 2004.

That's when Bethlehem Steel Corp. was formally dissolved, its 131
million shares of stock canceled at zero value. The 95,000 retired
employees whose steel-making efforts had helped build the country and
provide the firepower through World War II - often paying a harsh
physical price for their labors - were stripped of the health-care
benefits they had been promised.

"Armed robbery in broad daylight," Reutter was saying the other day.
"It's a case study of capitalism gone awry."

The book's part cautionary tale, part cry of anger, and part sympathy
letter to workers who turned Sparrows Point into one of the proud icons
of American industry. Bethlehem Steel's mill, Reutter writes, "had the
greatest metal-making capacity on earth. Out of its furnace fires came
the steel for the tail fins of Chevy Bel Airs and Thunderbird
convertibles, the tin plate for Campbell's Soup cans, the hulls of
ocean tankers and Navy destroyers, the wire and girder plate of
suspension bridges, and a thousand and one other products that made our
culture of bigness and abundance possible."

But, contrast that with the scene two years ago, at the same Dundalk
Avenue union hall where Reutter's scheduled to speak at 1 p.m.
tomorrow. All that week of March 2003, thousands of men and women
streamed into the hall, beginning to realize the full extent of the raw
retirement deal they were being handed.

There were men with oxygen tubes for the asbestosis they'd gotten on
the job. Others were in wheelchairs. Some walked with canes from
accidents on the job. Others remembered wearing protective clothing
every day to shield them from searing-hot ingots. All of them wondered
how they would now pay their medical costs.

These were people, Reutter writes, who had spent their work days at
Sparrows Point getting "dirt on their faces, burn marks on their legs,
grease on their hands; people who chewed Brown's Mule Plug tobacco to
keep the dust out of their throats and nailed sections of old tires to
their shoes to keep their feet from getting burned on the brick

By 1988, a Bethlehem Steel that had employed about 30,000 people was
down to 7,900 and still falling. And a U.S. steel industry that had
accounted for two-thirds of global steel production at the end of World
War II had now dropped to 15 percent of world production.

Some of it was due to better overseas competition. Some of it was
replacement materials that cut into the steel market. All of it meant
workers losing ground to wage concessions, consolidations, plant
closings. And a $3 billion erasure of medical benefits that workers had
imagined were the payoff for long, rugged years on the job.

Though the bankrupt company's assets were sold to the International
Steel Group, Reutter writes, "If a company goes out of business and
sells its assets to another company, neither is required to pick up the
tab for the benefits owed to retired employees."

So there they were, thousands of these retired workers, with nowhere to
turn. Their union was sympathetic but powerless. That's part of a
trend. This month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the
percentage of Americans belonging to labor unions fell last year to the
lowest level in more than six decades, and the percentage in unionized
private sector jobs fell to the lowest level since the early 1900s.

Where were the politicians while so many Sparrows Point workers were
getting hurt? Reutter, a former Sun investigative reporter who is now
business and law editor at the University of Illinois at
Urbana-Champaign, bitingly calls it "a bipartisan show of silence,"
citing U.S. Sens. Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski for allowing
workers to be hurt so badly and saving harsher words for Gov. Robert L.
Ehrlich Jr.

"The passivity of Ehrlich was especially glaring," Reutter writes.
"Before becoming governor ... Ehrlich had represented Sparrows Point
and eastern Baltimore County for eight years in the House of
Representatives," where - according to Ehrlich's Web site - he "was an
active member of the Congressional Steel Caucus, consistently voicing
the concerns of workers in Maryland's steel communities."

That self-definition aside, Reutter writes, Ehrlich "lost his voice"
and "did not protest the bankruptcy sale or participate in
behind-the-scenes negotiations that led to the withdrawal of
health-care benefits, even though his ability as a Princeton-educated
lawyer might have been useful in aiding the veterans and senior
steelworkers he had promised to support and serve."

You can hear the anger in Reutter's voice. What a pity so many others
were silent when it counted.
Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Moron
2005-02-25 19:03:14 UTC
Shipper decries leaders of port

by Andrew A. Green and Michael Dresser (Baltimore Sun Staff)

February 24, 2005

One of the largest shipping lines at the port of Baltimore is
considering curtailing its business there because of what a company
official called the "political incompetence" of Ehrlich administration
officials running the port.

Capt. E. Lorenzo Di Casagrande, vice president of Mediterranean
Shipping Company Inc., wrote that Transportation Secretary Robert L.
Flanagan is jeopardizing long-term business relationships by stripping
port Director James White of his authority and replacing seasoned
workers with people who don't have "the slightest idea of the shipping

Mediterranean -- which brought in 140,000 containers last year and is
the largest containership customer at the port -- had been planning to
bring 30,000 additional containers to Baltimore this year and was
considering using the port for its cruise ships, Di Casagrande wrote.
Those plans are on hold, he added.

"Under the present circumstances ... we may be in the condition to look
to other alternative ports and forget Baltimore," Di Casagrande wrote
in a letter to Baltimore lawyer Peter G. Angelos, who Di Casagrande
said is an old friend who he thought could help him get through to Gov.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

Angelos did not return a phone message yesterday, and Ehrlich, through
a spokesman, declined to comment on the letter.

Flanagan defended the management of the port yesterday. He said he and
the governor spoke with Di Casagrande at an event last month, and the
official expressed none of the concerns in his letter.

"It's all part of a rumor that I think Captain Di Casagrande has fallen
victim to," Flanagan said. He is set to meet with Di Casagrande on
March 16.

The letter comes at a time when port management is under increasing
criticism from lawmakers and some in the industry.

Two weeks ago, an official with John Deere & Co., a major port
customer, wrote an e-mail saying the state's decision to close
Midwestern sales offices and fire veteran marketing officers could
damage relations with the company.

Harry Hussein, general manager in Baltimore for Haul North America, a
large shipping line with about 90 port calls in Baltimore a year, said
he worries that White will be fired or will leave because of
administration interference at the port.

"It's a shame that he's had to endure interference from the governor's
administration, and from people who have no clue as to the maritime
industry and what the port means to the local economy," Hussein said.

And Comptroller William Donald Schaefer -- who as governor brought
Mediterranean to the port -- complained to Ehrlich at last week's Board
of Public Works meeting about how the port is being run.

Yesterday, Schaefer said he believes White is one of the best port
managers in the country but that the administration is removing the
support staff he needs to succeed.

"I'm not sure Secretary Flanagan really is seasoned enough to
understand the importance of good people at the port," said Schaefer, a
close ally of Ehrlich's. "You can't just have someone who sold bananas
and have him represent the port."

White said he has not been asked to leave and is trying to win
Flanagan's respect. He said many excellent staff members remain, but
the administration has put people without maritime experience in high
positions, which has been difficult for customers and other employees.

"They asked me to embrace them and give them training. I've been trying
to do that. Unfortunately, they've been brought in at such a high
level, that they have very experienced maritime people answering to
them. That makes the situation difficult," he said.

In an interview, Di Casagrande said the new employees at the port "have
never seen a ship in their lives" and have made Baltimore a
laughingstock in the industry.

He described a recent industry event in New York -- which he says he
was told about by a customer -- where one of his shipping customers
asked a newly appointed port marketing representative what the Port of
Baltimore could do for the customer's company.

Di Casagrande said that instead of providing business reasons to choose
Baltimore, the representative -- whom he would not name -- told the
customer the port could provide crab feasts, golfing outings and
tickets to sporting events, Di Casagrande said.

"That night became a joke" in the shipping industry, he said.

"What was achieved during the last 18 years was due to hard work in
creating the proper respect among all the parties involved," Di
Casagrande wrote of the port's progress. "It is sad to see it destroyed
by political incompetence."

Flanagan, however, said White is in complete operational control.

"We have an excellent team over there, and the proof is in the growing
business of the port," he said.

Flanagan, an attorney and former member of the House of Delegates, said
container traffic increased by about 15 percent from 2003 to 2004. The
latest figures available for 2004 had it on pace to top 7.5 million
tons for the year, up from 7.18 million tons in 2003.

The port brought in $216.2 million in state and local taxes and $1.47
billion in business revenue in 2002, according to the latest economic
impact report prepared for the port by Martin Associates of Lancaster,
Pa. The report also said the port directly employs 15,740 and that
potentially thousands of other jobs rely on it.

Flanagan said the port continues to make major investments in new
equipment and facilities.

Legislators who represent the port and oversee its operations said they
have grown increasingly troubled by the management of the port under
the Ehrlich administration.

Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., who leads a subcommittee that oversees the
port, said White and his professional staff are crucial to the success
of the port.

He said he was concerned to learn that a professional figure skater
with no maritime experience, Gregory J. Maddalone, had been hired as a
legislative affairs officer for the port. Maddalone's resume from early
in the Ehrlich administration, before he served a stint with the
Maryland Transit Administration, shows that the 29-year-old has no
college degree or experience in any field other than figure skating.

Del. Brian K. McHale, a Baltimore Democrat who works at the port, said
he has heard complaints from shippers about port management since
Flanagan took over as transportation secretary.

"People's families are going to suffer because of this," McHale said,
referring to the problems outlined in the letter. "It's really just
because of their incompetence."

Del. Peter Franchot, who leads the House subcommittee that oversees the
port's budget, agreed that the port has done well but predicted the
"house of cards" will fall if White leaves.

"It is a relationship-driven industry, and to bring in people who know
nothing about the maritime industry is going to be lethal to the port's
future," the Montgomery County Democrat said.

Schaefer said the governor had no response to his questions about the
port at last week's Board of Public Works meeting. But the comptroller
said he warned Ehrlich that he needs to take the complaints about the
port seriously.

"I did tell the governor, 'You're No. 1, but if you monkey around by
losing your top people, you won't be No. 1 for much longer,'" Schaefer
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-02-28 21:47:58 UTC
Port's director steps down

by Meredith Cohn, Michael Dresser and Andrew A. Green
Sun Staff

February 25, 2005

The director of the port of Baltimore resigned yesterday, realizing the
fears of Maryland shipping interests and lawmakers who had in recent
days angrily decried what they described as political interference with
port management.

"It's just not working, so the best thing to do is just get out of the
way and allow them to put somebody in here they're more comfortable
with," James J. White said after he informed his staff. "I feel very
sad, but like a large weight has been lifted off my back."

White's decision stunned people familiar with the business of the port,
from the state capital to the city's industrial waterfront. After the
port had struggled through a revolving door of directors during the
late 1980s and 1990s - seven in eight years - White, 55, had
represented stability. He helped stanch the loss of trade to other East
Coast ports by bringing in customers and signing them to long-term

The recent turn of events at the port is part of a larger story that
has enveloped Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s administration over the
replacement of top-ranking political appointees and professional staff.
Since Ehrlich took office more than two years ago, midlevel officials
at agencies including the Public Service Commission, the Department of
Business and Economic Development, and the Maryland Transit
Administration have been replaced by the state's first Republican
governor in more than three decades.

But the pressure at the port had elicited especially sharp concerns
from shipping interests, lawmakers and state Comptroller William Donald
Schaefer, usually an Ehrlich supporter. They feared the loss of a
skilled port executive just as Baltimore's port has improved against
stiff competition from Norfolk, Va.; New York; and elsewhere.

'Some ... friction'

White called a meeting at 11:30 a.m. yesterday to inform his directors
and others that he had resigned, a port spokeswoman said. He also said
he had been approached by others in the maritime industry and planned
to pursue the opportunities.

White was a Maryland Port Administration executive since 1993 and was
named executive director in 1999 by former Democratic Gov. Parris N.
Glendening. He declined the job initially, saying he feared the
potential politics involved.

In an unusually frank assessment Wednesday, the night before he
announced his decision, White didn't let on thoughts about leaving, but
he described his relationship with Transportation Secretary Robert L.
Flanagan as strained. He said then that he hoped to keep his job but
acknowledged that he had failed to earn the secretary's respect.

Flanagan, however, said he tried to dissuade White from leaving during
a face-to-face conversation yesterday morning. He also said Ehrlich was
disappointed at the resignation.

"I asked Jim if there were any circumstances under which he would be
willing to stay, and he indicated there were not," said Flanagan,
although he acknowledged "some amount of friction" with White during
his tenure.

"He has agreed to work with us to ensure a smooth transition, and we're
basically negotiating what that would be at this time."

Flanagan said he's tapped former Maryland representative and port
consultant Helen Delich Bentley to lead a nationwide search committee
to replace White.

Bentley is expected to report a short list to Flanagan by April 15. In
a statement released by Flanagan's office, Bentley called White "the
best executive director the port of Baltimore has ever had. In his six
years here, he has accomplished more than any other East Coast port
director. He has put Baltimore on the international maritime map."

White earned $174,000 and still is negotiating a "separation"
agreement. He said he had 40 voice messages from well-wishers and had
been approached by other employers, which he declined to identify. The
Bel Air resident said he hopes to remain in Maryland.

Peter M. Tirschwell, editorial director for The Journal of Commerce, a
business publication, said that White would be qualified for a number
of openings and that the port of Baltimore would have to find a
seasoned maritime professional to take his place.

"The port community has its own particular needs, and they tend to like
continuity," Tirschwell said. "It's not surprising that there would
have been complaints from big shippers about interfering in port
operations. It's a business not generally understood by a person on the

Schaefer, who had sought assurances from Ehrlich that he would keep the
director, said the port is going to lose.

"White will go somewhere else, and the next thing you know, he'll be
taking business away from the port of Baltimore because of his high
qualifications," the former governor and Baltimore mayor said.

Schaefer said he suspected White was pushed out. He said the governor
should not accept the resignation and should give White the authority
to run the port and hire deputies as he sees fit.


White supporters, who had written fervent appeals to the governor and
others recently to protect his job, contended that White was being
forced to accept political appointees with no maritime experience. One
appointee mentioned was Gregory J. Maddalone, a former figure skater
without a college degree who was given a job as the port's legislative
liaison officer.

White said that of about 10 political appointees in his office of 298,
one had maritime experience. He said he had no input on their

However, Flanagan, the transportation secretary, denied that. He also
said the issue of appointees, which he put at 16, was overblown.

"Certainly there was, I think, a very reasonable number of changes
during the transition with the new governor. Sixteen of 300 is very
reasonable," he said.

One change that stirred dissatisfaction among port customers - a
decision to close the port's sales offices in Chicago and Detroit - is
being reconsidered, he said. The agency is leaning in favor of
consolidating them into one office.

Director's backers

White's supporters included customers - such as executives of
Mediterranean Shipping Co. and John Deere & Co., who'd written strong
letters on his behalf - and longshoremen, who are concerned that a drop
in business would curtail jobs.

"I think it's a grave error," said Roland Day, an official with the
1,100-member International Longshoremen's Association Local 333. "Mr.
White has been instrumental in maintaining and growing the volume of
work that comes through here. It'll be devastating if he leaves,
because he's been so robust and aggressive in selling the port."

Once the major port in the Mid-Atlantic, Baltimore's industrial
waterfront struggled during the mid-1990s, as many businesses chose the
port at Hamp-

ton Roads, Va., rather than ship goods 10 more hours up the Chesapeake
Bay. About the time he became director, White bemoaned advertisements
the Virginia ports placed in the trade journals pointing out
Baltimore's lack of consistent leadership as a key reason customers
should choose them instead.

But after taking over, White was able to persuade container carrier
Mediterranean and several auto manufacturers to sign long-term
contracts in Baltimore. Shipping volume at the Baltimore facility rose
to more than 7.4 million tons last year, up from 5.2 million tons in
1993, when White arrived.

'Significant impact'

"I think it's going to have a significant impact," Sen. James E.
DeGrange Sr., an Anne Arundel County Democrat who chairs a subcommittee
that oversees the port, said of White's departure. "I'm sad to say
we're going to start to see these contracts that were maybe going to
come to the port will not because of the loss of a true professional."

"I can't imagine a port professional who can be recruited for this job
under the current circumstances," said Del. Peter Franchot, who leads
the subcommittee on the House side that oversees the port's budget. The
Montgomery County Democrat referred to the hiring of Maddalone, the
former figure skater, as he contemplated White's resignation.

"It wouldn't surprise me," he said, "if they were recruiting Tonya
Harding to replace him."
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-02-28 21:49:33 UTC
Port in a storm

February 27, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

ASK ANYONE in the shipping industry: James J. White is top drawer.
Labor, management, government, it doesn't matter. He's the best thing
to happen to the Port of Baltimore in the modern era. Don't take our
word for it. That's what the port's longtime guardian, Helen Delich
Bentley, thinks, too. "We've never had a better port executive," the
Republican former congresswoman said recently. Mr. White's resignation
as head of the Maryland Port Administration is a huge blow to
Baltimore, to the state's business community and to Maryland's economy.

And here's the worst of it: There's no good reason why Mr. White had to
resign. To put it bluntly, he couldn't stand all the interference he
received from Maryland Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan. He
was particularly aghast at some of the people he's been forced to hire,
most of whom had no experience in his industry. No offense to Gregory
J. Maddalone, the ice dancer engaged by Mr. Flanagan as the port's
legislative liaison, but what's the deal with that? Mr. White probably
can't perform a triple lutz, but he knows a heck of a lot more about
running a port than Mr. Flanagan.

Mr. Flanagan counters that the administration has introduced only 16
new employees to the MPA since Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. became governor.
The agency has a payroll of more than 300. No matter. The only employee
who really counts here is Mr. White. His departure has already raised
doubts about future expansion plans for one of the port's biggest
shippers. E. Lorenzo Di Casagrande of Mediterranean Shipping Co.
complained earlier this month of a "complete deterioration in service
and professionalism" at the port. That should have set off alarm bells.

The port remains a critical employer in this state. Not just because it
accounts for 18,000 jobs but because these are well-paid blue-collar
jobs, the kind that are in short supply in Maryland and elsewhere. Mr.
Ehrlich should be particularly sensitive to this. He knows GM's
Broening Highway plant closes in a matter of weeks. Bethlehem Steel is
long gone. The maritime industry is highly competitive. Mr. White's
value was in his three decades of experience and personal relationships
in an industry that is cool to outsiders. In rival ports from Norfolk
to New York, they must be delighted with all the tumult in Baltimore.

The MPA needs a qualified replacement, and it needs one fast. Mr.
Flanagan was wise to appoint the redoubtable Mrs. Bentley to head the
search. He's promised to reconsider some planned layoffs in the port's
marketing department and the closing of at least one of the port's
Midwestern offices. He also says the next director will have full
responsibility for hiring and firing. But this may be a classic case of
closing the barn door a day too late.

Baltimore won't know the full effect of Mr. White's departure for a
year or two. But even Mr. Flanagan must recognize that one of the
state's most vital economic engines has needlessly been placed in
jeopardy. Maryland shouldn't have to pay such a price for the sake of
mere cronyism.
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-03-01 15:44:33 UTC
To a beleaguered governor, unpalatable slots bill is a win

by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)

Originally published Mar 1, 2005

GO FIGURE. After two years of frustration over his failed slot machine
hustle, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich gets handed a gambling package he cannot
stomach and yet wishes to declare a great victory. He practically did
cartwheels for the TV cameras last week, and went outside in the cold
and threw snowballs like a schoolboy. Somebody explain to this poor guy
that it's only halftime, and he's up by a single point.

"Excuse me," somebody said to Michael Busch in the aftermath of the
House of Delegates' squeaky and tentative approval of slots, "but does
the governor not understand the corner he's in?"

"He's pretty amazing," said the House speaker.

"But doesn't he get what's happened?"

"I think he does get it," Busch said. "That's what makes it amazing."

If the history of the Ehrlich administration were written today, it
would read like a coroner's report. Put aside, for the moment, the last
two years, in which its most glorious achievement is the flush tax. And
just consider some recent days.

In the midst of bitter debate, the House approved a slots measure by
the thinnest possible margin Friday. But the devil's still in the
details. The House wants one type of slots bill; the Senate wants
another. Busch says he will not change one line of the House version
("not a comma," he says), while Ehrlich and Senate President Thomas V.
Mike Miller insist on heavy changes. But some delegates, who held their
noses and supported the House measure, say they'll change their votes
if any alterations are made.

Which could leave Ehrlich, the famously uncompromising governor, in a
position not unlike a couple of months ago, when he called a special
session on medical malpractice insurance, got almost - "almost," that's
the key - everything he said he wanted, and still vetoed the thing.

"I've never seen anything like that," Busch was saying now. "Every
doctor, every hospital, every nursing home saying he stopped the
problem, he's got a great victory - and then he drops the ball."

But last week's slots vote - and the image of this governor happily
throwing snowballs after what he seems to perceive as a triumphant
moment - gives us some notion of what this beleaguered administration
considers victory these days. It is getting pummeled everywhere
(except, of course, on talk radio, where the only thing thrown at
Ehrlich softer than snowballs are the questions).

The state has been sued at least six times since Ehrlich took office by
workers who alleged they were fired for their political affiliation.
That is against the law. One case cost the state $100,000 in an
out-of-court settlement. Democrats, pushing for an investigation of
hiring and firing practices, now say hundreds have lost their jobs
without cause.

"I've seen so many people thrown out of their jobs like an old bag of
wheat, it makes me sick to my stomach," Busch said. "Good, decent human
beings who get two hours to clear out their desks. And that's comical
to the Ehrlich people."

The "comical" reference is declared bitterly. Annapolis is still
dissecting information about Ehrlich harboring the self-described
Prince of Darkness, Joseph Steffen, who apparently acted as one of the
governor's hatchet men when he wasn't spreading rumors about Mayor
Martin O'Malley's marriage.

With that story still in the air came news last week that the port of
Baltimore had lost its director, James J. White, who finally had enough
with continuing ham-handed political interference from the Ehrlich

White was immediately saluted as "the best executive director the port
of Baltimore has ever had" by Helen Bentley, the former U.S.
congresswoman and port consultant. Bentley, it should be noted, is a
Republican. She has been tapped to find a replacement for White. She
understands an important fact here: Jobs like White's aren't supposed
to be about politics. They're about competence, a word that seems to be
foreign to this administration.

"The port," a concerned Bentley said yesterday, "is our last major
center of blue-collar jobs." About 18,000 of them, actually, and pretty
decent-paying jobs at that. And White's exit follows hard on the heels
of angry comments from both lawmakers and Maryland shipping interests
over what they describe as continuing political interference with port

"This guy [White] was given kudos by everyone who worked in the
shipping industry, bay pilots, the longshoremen's union, the shipping
lines," says Busch. "He was extremely fair and knowledgeable. The
port's never been in better shape. And all that's built on

"It's another example," said South Baltimore Del. Brian McHale, "where
they don't fire you, they just make your life miserable. White's the
Hank Aaron of the industry, and they put utility players in to replace
him. Like this ice skater they've brought in."

He means Gregory J. Maddalone, a former professional ice dancer brought
in by the Ehrlich people to be the port's legislative liaison.

"You expect political appointments," McHale said, "but this is blatant.
... I have never seen this level of incompetence, in politics or at the
port. And White was the most apolitical guy around. He stayed away from
politics. So he gets weeded out for political expedience."

In such an atmosphere, last week's razor-thin, tentative House vote on
slots looks like a fabulous political triumph. At least to Ehrlich. In
the current political Ice Age, he's the one out there throwing
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-03-11 21:43:56 UTC
Steffen had ties to Ehrlich inner circle, e-mails suggest

by Ivan Penn (Baltimore Sun Staff)

March 5, 2005

Annapolis lawmakers renewed calls yesterday for an independent
investigation of the Ehrlich administration's management practices
after e-mail messages released this week suggested that a state worker
fired for spreading rumors about Mayor Martin O'Malley had ties to Gov.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s inner circle.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh and Del. Peter Franchot, Montgomery County
Democrats, said several e-mails sent and received by fired worker
Joseph F. Steffen indicate that he was more than what the Ehrlich
administration termed a "rogue operation."

In e-mails given to The Sun and other news organizations -- and
unrelated to the O'Malley rumors -- Steffen describes himself as "a
special assistant to the governor" and as someone "specifically
directed by the governor" to speak to management and personnel issues.

Several of Steffen's e-mails to a Department of Human Resources
official were copied to such senior Ehrlich administration officials as
appointments secretary Lawrence J. Hogan Jr.; Mary Beth Carozza, deputy
chief of staff; and chief counsel Jervis S. Finney, who is heading the
probe of Steffen's activities.

Ehrlich fired Steffen last month after it came to light that he
contributed to spreading rumors on a conservative Web site about
O'Malley's marriage. Steffen has been criticized for fostering fear
among workers and generating a list of who would be fired.

Steffen could not be reached for comment yesterday.

"I think it's time for an independent investigation of the integrity of
the governor's office," Franchot said yesterday. "Mr. Finney is
involved with these e-mails, and there are probably hundreds of other

House Speaker Michael E. Busch said legislative leaders would have a
statement Tuesday in response to the e-mails.

The Ehrlich administration said yesterday that Steffen wrongly
described in his e-mails the authority that he wielded within the human
resources department, where he was working. Administration officials
also said Steffen never held a position as "special assistant to the

Moreover, the administration insisted that Finney is the appropriate
person to conduct the inquiry into Steffen's activities.

"The administration is confident in the progress of the investigation
and asks that it be allowed to continue before any rash decisions are
made," said Shareese DeLeaver, an Ehrlich spokeswoman.

In his response to questions about his contact with Steffen, Finney
said he was ensuring the agency ran smoothly as personnel issues were
being considered. "My effort was to ask the people in the Department of
Human Services to be sure to cooperate with each other in the
governor's mission," Finney said.

Steffen mostly worked for the human resources and juvenile services
departments, and the Maryland Insurance Administration.

The e-mails released this week included exchanges within the human
resources department between September and December 2003. Most were
exchanges between Steffen and Byron Harris, chief of staff to human
resources Secretary Christopher J. McCabe, about personnel, meetings
and management issues.

"Though it really doesn't need to be said, I have full authority,
indeed I am at times directed/mandated, to contact individuals directly
regarding meeting and other requests on behalf of the governor,"
Steffen wrote in a Dec. 12, 2003, e-mail to Harris.

But a spokesman for human resources said Steffen acted without the
authority of the department.
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-03-11 21:46:29 UTC
Ehrlich's business record debated

by David Nitkin (Baltimore Sun Staff)

March 6, 2005

As Maryland's first Republican chief executive in more than a
generation, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. promised to bring a fresh ethos
to a state with a reputation for high taxes and burdensome regulations.

"The message has been that Maryland is not open for business," Ehrlich
told his opponent, then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, during a
Chamber of Commerce candidates forum in 2002. In two of his three State
of the State addresses, the governor has declared that his victory
means Maryland is now "open for business."

But recent disclosures about how the Ehrlich administration is handling
one of the state's most potent economic engines - the port of Baltimore
- could weaken Ehrlich's pro-industry credentials, business leaders and
politicians say.

Respected, longtime port chief James J. White resigned last month after
what his defenders said was meddling by recent Ehrlich political
appointees with virtually no experience in the maritime industry.

"We're all concerned about it," said Diane Kraus, president of the
Baltimore Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association. "It's our

In other agencies, accusations have surfaced that the governor's aides
are digging deep into the bureaucracy to replace skilled workers with
less-experienced newcomers whose chief qualifications are Republican

A Democrat, Kraus voted for Ehrlich largely because she liked his
pro-business message. She said she's not giving up on the governor. But
at the port, she said, "the politicking doesn't help matters."

All told, critics say, Ehrlich's desire to portray himself as a smart
manager who can run a government with efficiency that would make the
private sector proud is under assault.

"The line that they use is that they are pro-business, and Maryland is
not a business-friendly state," said Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., an
Anne Arundel County Democrat who chairs a subcommittee that oversees
the port.

But forcing out knowledgeable leaders at the port and other agencies is
hardly smart management, he said.

"It certainly goes totally against what the Republican administration
has tried to stand for," DeGrange said. "If you have an airport that is
run well, and a port that is running well, leave them alone and let
them operate well."

Supporters of the governor say that he continues to make wise
decisions, and that his administration is a boon to commerce in

"This guy is a shining beacon for business. And I can't overstate it,"
said Edward F. Hale Sr., a banker and developer who made a personal
fortune running barge lines and a trucking company at the port.

No fan of White's, Hale called the furor over the port director's
ouster "much ado about nothing."

"The port is much bigger than any single person," he said. "I think
[Ehrlich] will be able to get somebody in here equal to the task."

Politicians and business leaders have debated for decades whether
Maryland is a healthy climate for private-sector jobs. The state has a
high personal income tax when the county or local "piggyback" portion
is added in, but sales taxes are below those in many states.

Some critics point to Maryland's strict environmental and anti-sprawl
laws, and mandates for medical coverage, as excessive governmental

But the state consistently has enjoyed below-average unemployment, in
large part because of the proximity of the heart of federal government
and its job and contracting opportunities. Personal income is high;
workers are well-educated.

"Ehrlich's assertion that Maryland is an unfriendly business climate is
not supported by any facts," said Richard C. Mike Lewin, former head of
the Department of Business and Economic Development under Ehrlich's
predecessor, Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

"And subsequently, what he has done with the port, and what he has done
by cutting into the sinew of state government, with the people who
actually do the work, is creating a much worse business climate, not a
better one," Lewin said.

Ehrlich has received the backing of the National Federation of
Independent Business and apparently is so comfortable around business
interests that he feels he can chastise them.

The governor hushed a ballroom packed with 300 business leaders in
April when he told them they were ineffective in Annapolis because
lawmakers didn't feel enough pressure to vote against taxes. "We need
you to get dangerous," he told them.

Still, the notion that Republicans are the preferred candidates of
business interests does not hold up to scrutiny, said James G. Gimpel,
a University of Maryland government professor. Business groups spread
their money to politicians of every stripe because they are more
concerned with having their voices heard than with ideology, he said.

"Business casts its contributions quite widely, because they want to
work with whoever is in office," Gimpel said. "Businesses are very
opportunistic. What they most want is access."

Under that theory, as an incumbent with broad financial and policy
powers at his disposal, Ehrlich runs only minimal risk of a large
defection of business interests.

For now, Gimpel said, Ehrlich is using his prerogatives as chief
executive, and White's forced departure is an example.

"The governor needs to bring all agencies of state government under his
control," Gimpel said. "It surprises me it has taken him this long to
replace that guy."

While maintaining a no-new-taxes pledge that is welcomed by the
business community, the governor has pushed other initiatives that are
less palatable to them. He has proposed a variety of fee increases,
including a vehicle-registration boost last year. This year, retailers
are opposing the proposed elimination of credit they get for collecting
sales tax.

But, for many, the good far outweighs the bad.

Sen. Larry E. Haines, a Carroll County Republican who consistently
scores high marks on business-vote rankings, said he was impressed when
Ehrlich agency heads in charge of economic development, transportation
and the environment spoke against legislation that would bring
California-style vehicle emissions standards to Maryland.

"It's the first time in my history here that Cabinet secretaries have
testified against this kind of bill," Haines said. "That reflects the
fact that we have a very pro-business administration."
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-03-11 22:01:24 UTC
Sun filing appeal on Ehrlich ban

by David Dishneau (The Associated Press)

Originally published March 11, 2005, 4:27 PM EST

Maryland's biggest newspaper said today it will take its First
Amendment fight with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. to the 4th U.S. Circuit
Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va. next week unless the two sides can
reach a settlement.

The Sun has until Wednesday to appeal a Feb. 14 U.S. District Court
ruling dismissing the paper's lawsuit challenging an Ehrlich order that
barred state employees from talking to two Sun writers.

Neither side seemed conciliatory at a newspaper industry meeting today
in Pikesville, where Paul E. Schurick, chief spokesman for the
first-term Republican governor, all but accused The Sun of printing
biased news stories.

"This is a newspaper that didn't want Bob Ehrlich to win this election
and I am convinced will go to extraordinary lengths to try to ensure
that he doesn't win re-election if he runs next year," Schurick said.

Sun Editor Timothy A. Franklin countered that his paper has "really
been the subject of an unprecedented smear campaign by the
administration." He cited several recent examples of Ehrlich and other
state officials publicly disparaging the accuracy of Sun stories that
Franklin said were correct.

"We don't take it lightly when falsehoods are being spread about our
newspaper," Franklin said.

Yet both men, sitting on a panel sponsored by The Associated Press at
the Maryland-Delaware-D.C. Press Association meeting, said they hoped
the dispute would be settled without further litigation.

Schurick also had praise for one of the writers, David Nitkin, whose
promotion from Sun statehouse bureau chief to state political editor
was announced today. "I have great respect for him. I think he's a very
good journalist and he's a good guy," Schurick said.

Schurick revealed that it was his idea to "pull the plug" on Nitkin and
columnist Michael Olesker Nov. 18 because Ehrlich felt they weren't
reporting objectively on his administration.

"It was my recommendation," Schurick said. "It was something that I
wasn't particularly comfortable with but I wouldn't hesitate to do
again if I find myself in the same situation."

The Sun filed a federal lawsuit in December claiming the order violated
the writers' First Amendment rights by denying them the same
opportunities to seek information as anyone else. Judge William D.
Quarles Jr. dismissed the complaint, ruling the paper hadn't shown it
had suffered irreparable harm.

Franklin called it a "terrible, terrible, awful ruling."

Lucy Dalglish, executive director of the Reporters Committee for
Freedom of the Press, a national advocacy group based in Arlington,
Va., agreed when asked about the dispute later in the meeting.

"When journalists can't do their jobs, the voting public doesn't have
the information it needs to make decisions in this democracy," she

Dalglish also said it was "insane" for Ehrlich to retaliate instead of
discussing his differences with the Sun "like a grown-up."

"You would think that if you rise to that level in public office, that
you've developed some sort of thick skin," she said.
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-03-14 15:52:34 UTC
E-mails show Steffen not 'irrelevant,' 'mid-level'

by Michael Olesker

Originally published Mar 14, 2005

IN THE continuing saga of Official State Dirtball Joseph Steffen, a new
name enters the mix: Kendel S. Ehrlich. It turns out, the day before
Steffen was to be outed for spreading filth about Mayor Martin
O'Malley, he turned to the first lady of Maryland for a shoulder to cry
on. Relax, Kendel Ehrlich told Steffen, we need you. The next day,
Steffen was shoved offstage. As Shakespeare didn't quite say: Out, out,
damned Dirtball.

The Kendel Ehrlich e-mail was the most fascinating item uncovered by
two dozen reporters scrounging through 14,500 pages of e-mails and
other documents the Ehrlich administration reluctantly released Friday.
They did it because The Sun and nine other news organizations filed
Freedom of Information Act requests. But the governor's advisers held
back thousands more pages, citing legal reasons.

The records were requested because everybody wants to know just how
close this Steffen was to the inner circle of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich
Jr. "Irrelevant to our world," Ehrlich press secretary Paul E. Schurick
said this month.


We already know Steffen goes back to Ehrlich's early political days,
when his campaigns were regularly accused of playing dirty tricks. We
already knew that Steffen, under scrutiny for his alleged role in
politically motivated dismissals of scores of state workers, is known
as the Prince of Darkness. But we now learn, according to a Steffen
e-mail, that it was Ehrlich himself who bestowed the nickname on

"Having been dubbed the Prince of Darkness by the governor during his
1994 run for Congress does have its burdens," Steffen wrote to an
inner-circle group that included the governor's speech writer, his
deputy appointments secretary, two deputy press secretaries and two
others. He went on to describe "two separate occasions" when Ehrlich
and Secretary of Appointments Lawrence J. Hogan Jr. walked into
receptions, saw Steffen and, "shout[ed] out, 'Prince of Darkness.'"

Such hilarity! Such fun! And never mind any hatchet-man reasons behind
such a swell nickname.

We also know, of course, that Steffen was throwing around rumors about
the mayor of Baltimore's sex life, and we've already been told, in
previously outed Steffen e-mails, that "a lot of the reason everybody
knows [O'Malley's] history is because of what has gone on beneath the
surface. ... A few folks put in a lot of effort to ensure the story got
some real float."

A few folks? Which folks? Nobody around here, the Ehrlich folks insist.
In their mad scramble to distance themselves from Steffen, they've not
only called him "irrelevant to our world," but a mere "mid-level" state
functionary who had no meaningful access to the Ehrlich inner circle.

So here's a question:

Who among us, seen by the company's big shots as "irrelevant to our
world" and "mid-level," instinctively turns to the boss's wife when we
get ourselves into trouble?

There are roughly 50,000 state employees (not including the state
higher-education system). If Steffen was merely a "mid-level" guy, what
does that mean? That 25,000 other state employees feel comfortable
reaching out to Kendel Ehrlich when things get sticky?

In his e-mail to the first lady of Maryland, Steffen says he will "not
hesitate to throw myself on the grenade if that is what I think is
needed - or is desired from above."

This is fine macho John Wayne-type language, but it raises another

Why did Steffen sense any conceivable need to throw himself on a
grenade? In wartime, such selfless gestures are made to protect others.
In this case - protection from what? If Steffen is merely this rogue
operative going his own way, as Ehrlich's people insist, then why would
anyone in the governor's inner circle need protection?

Last Friday, at the same time Ehrlich's staff was releasing the 14,500
pages of e-mails, they were simultaneously issuing a statement from
Schurick. The intent was to offer further distance from Steffen. The
statement says the governor is "deeply troubled and disappointed that
any member of his administration would act in mean-spirited ways," and
that Ehrlich is "appalled that Steffen also trafficked in insensitive
and mean-spirited words."

This, from the guy whose previous campaigns roused cries of "dirty
tricks" by fellow Republican Thomas W. Chamberlain, and by Democrats
Gerry L. Brewster, Connie Galiazzo DeJuliis and Kathleen Kennedy
Townsend. This, from the guy who accused House Speaker Michael E. Busch
of "playing the race card" because he disagreed with him over slots.
This, from the guy who went on the radio to call multiculturalism
"crap" when he thought it might score a few political points.

With much of the talk about Dirtball Steffen revolving around his
alleged role in politically motivated dismissals of state workers, last
week's Schurick statement goes on to deny Steffen had any such role
because "the record of his tenure makes the lack of any managerial or
personnel authority plainly apparent."

The governor's folks seem to have no concept of the word "authority."

This is the administration that brought in a fellow named Gregory J.
Maddalone, whose previous work experience was professional ice dancing,
and made him the port of Baltimore's legislative liaison. This, while
making conditions so unlivable for the highly esteemed (and apolitical)
James J. White that he left his job as port director.

Thus adding White to a whole list of state employees who were pushed
from their jobs, or simply jumped in exasperation.
Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich
2005-03-18 18:38:37 UTC
Miller seeks leverage by blocking Ehrlich nominees

by David Nitkin (Baltimore Sun Staff)

March 16, 2005

Escalating a political feud over the Ehrlich administration's hiring
and firing of key government staffers, Senate President Thomas V. Mike
Miller this week held up appointment of dozens of nominees who need
approval from lawmakers to stay in their jobs.

Miller, a Democrat, wants a stronger say for his party in the
appointment of two Democrats to the five-member state Board of
Elections. Party leaders also say he wants to strengthen his hand for
final negotiations with Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. on key
bills as the General Assembly session enters its final month.

"This is the only leverage we have," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, an
Anne Arundel County Democrat and chairman of the Executive Nominations
Committee, which votes on appointments. "It's all part of the
legislative process of maneuvering."

Among the 82 nominees caught in the crossfire are former Baltimore
County Sen. Francis X. Kelly Jr., named by Ehrlich to the university
system's Board of Regents, and Robert A. Rohrbaugh, appointed last year
as state prosecutor.

Kelly, who switched parties and now is a Republican, said yesterday
that he spoke to Miller and urged him to move forward with the
appointments. "This is very unusual. It never happened before," said
Kelly. "I'm not taking it personally, but it is disrespectful to the 90
private citizens brought into the middle of an Annapolis food fight."

Administration officials say Miller's action and a variety of budget
cuts taking place this week amount to political retribution by
Democrats concerned about what they say is Ehrlich's political
housecleaning in a variety of agencies.

Lawmakers on a budget committee in recent days have eliminated dozens
of positions filled by the governor, and have abolished an entire
sub-Cabinet agency - the Governor's Office of Children, Youth and
Families - whose leaders have close ties to first lady Kendel S.

"They are, in fact, doing everything they've accused us of doing," said
Lawrence J. Hogan Jr., the governor's appointments secretary. "Every
day, they are systematically targeting more and more Ehrlich people."

Sen. Andrew P. Harris, the GOP whip from Baltimore County, questioned
the value of Miller's strategy, noting that Ehrlich could reappoint his
chosen nominees after the General Assembly adjourned next month. They
could then serve a year as interim appointments.

Miller appeared undaunted yesterday. "It could be a permanent hold on
all these nominees, quite frankly," he said. "I wouldn't be averse to
doing that."

Miller insisted he had substantive reasons for his actions. He
questioned the objectivity of Rohrbaugh, head of a Republican club in
Montgomery County and a former committee lawyer for Republican Indiana
Rep. Dan Burton, who investigated questionable fund-raising activities
by Al Gore.

The Senate president also challenged the qualifications of the
governor's nominees to boards that regulate utility companies and
oversee workers' compensation claims.

"I think what we are looking for is objectivity on the part of these
nominees," Miller said.

Miller also accuses Ehrlich of ignoring the wishes of leading Democrats
regarding the two Democratic appointees to the state Board of

Remaking agencies

The delay on nominations comes against a backdrop of legislators'
concerns over how the Ehrlich administration has sought to remake
various state agencies under its control.

Lawmakers say that several former Ehrlich congressional staffers,
including former aide Joseph F. Steffen Jr., were dispatched to several
agencies, compiling lists of workers to be replaced. Steffen was forced
to resign after acknowledging he helped spread Internet rumors about
Mayor Martin O'Malley.

Democratic lawmakers say that Ehrlich is using staffers such as Steffen
to reach deeper than ever into agencies, and either firing or forcing
the resignation of relatively low-level employees to make way for those
loyal to the governor. They have vowed hearings on the issue after the
legislative session is over.

Aides to the governor deny the allegations and say that the
administration is acting properly in replacing workers who serve at the
pleasure of the governor.

Hogan yesterday accused Democrats of engaging in the same sort of
partisan witch-hunt of which they accuse Republicans. He said budget
committees are targeting Ehrlich appointees and priorities as they make
cuts to governor's proposed spending plan.

There is some evidence to support the claim. Yesterday, the House
Appropriations Committee slashed the salary of Michael T. Richard, head
of the Maryland Energy Administration, by $20,000. Richard is a former
assistant appointments secretary and nuclear industry lobbyist who has
overseen a large turnover in the energy agency, with at least one
former Capitol Hill staffer coming in.

The committee also cut the salary of James F. Ports Jr., the deputy
transportation secretary who is former House minority whip, by $6,000.
At least two dozen other positions, many of which are filled by Ehrlich
appointees, also were cut.

The committee's decision to dismantle the Office of Children, Youth and
Families also has political overtones.

The agency, long criticized as dysfunctional, was set to dissolve this
year until Ehrlich proposed legislation to make it a permanent Cabinet

Yesterday's committee action eliminated 21 of 40 jobs in the agency,
including those of M. Teresa Garland, special secretary, and Denise C.
Sulzbach, director of interagency policy, development and
implementation. The remaining positions are to be disbursed among
various agencies. Garland and Sulzbach worked with Kendel Ehrlich as
prosecutors in the Harford County state's attorney's office.

House Speaker Michael E. Busch defended the decision as a wise fiscal
move. "This was not some kind of concocted effort to retaliate for any
issue," he said.

'Have to draw the line'

Lawmakers have raised questions about some Ehrlich nominees since the
governor took office. But only one has been rejected. The Senate
refused to allow Lynn Y. Buhl, a former automobile industry attorney,
to serve as secretary of the Department of the Environment in 2003; she
now has another position in the administration.

Since then, however, Busch and other lawmakers have criticized firings
and staff changes in several independent agencies, such as the Public
Service Commission and the Maryland Insurance Administration.

The concerns grew a week ago, when the Senate delayed the approval
Karen A. Smith, an attorney who is the governor's intergovernmental
affairs chief, as a Public Service commissioner. Some lawmakers say
that Smith has been too overtly political. E-mails released last week
showed she knew Steffen, the ousted aide, and had personal
conversations with him.

"At some point, you have to draw the line," said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a
Montgomery County Democrat. "She does not bowl you over with her
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-03-29 21:46:48 UTC
The good steward

March 27, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

IT'S BAD form to mock the newly converted, no matter how self-serving
their motivations. So we are just happy to hear that Gov. Robert L.
Ehrlich Jr. and his fellow Republicans in Annapolis have seen the
light. They now support a constitutional amendment to limit the Board
of Public Works' power to sell state-owned parkland. Well, hallelujah.
Anything that can prevent another debacle like the Ehrlich
administration's attempt to sell 836 acres of environmentally sensitive
land in St. Mary's County to developer Willard Hackerman is good news.

But our joy is not unbounded. The Republicans simply recognized their
political plight in 2006. Whether they liked it or not, the issue is
headed to next year's ballot and plenty of Maryland voters are
displeased by the administration's real estate liquidation mentality.
They want a governor who is a good steward of the land, not a real
estate broker trying to earn his blazer. Mr. Ehrlich can read polls,
too. He knows he's going to get pounded on the issue by Democrats.

Voters are apt to remain suspicious, too. If they show up motivated to
vote for land conservation, are they likely to tap the screen for Mr.
Ehrlich, too? Maybe not. The governor's conservation credentials could
be improved further. And there's a relatively simple way he can do it.

Over the last four years, nearly $400 million has been taken out of
Program Open Space, Maryland's fund for the government purchase of
parks and conservation areas. Open Space has become the state's
Christmas Club account, with Mr. Ehrlich dipping in annually with no
promise of a future payback. Granted, a year or two of this may be
reasonable when the economy is in recession and tax revenue is down.
But four straight years is not a short-term fix, it's verging on
long-term public policy.

This year, the governor has proposed diverting another $163 million
from the Program Open Space account. That's simply too much.
Fortunately, the House and Senate are moving to restore $60 million to
$83 million of that cut. But there's no guarantee that Mr. Ehrlich
won't be back next year doing the same thing.

Here's the solution. The governor must promise to leave Program Open
Space whole in the future. And he needs to go one step further: Repay
the past diversions. A bill that would require just that (and cap
future diversions) is pending in the legislature, and he should endorse
it. The measure calls for the governor to set aside $50 million each
year for repayments.

That's a sensible idea. The goals of Program Open Space are supported
by 88 percent of Maryland voters, according to a recent poll. Restoring
its funding would go a long way to preserving farmland, protecting
drinking water, creating parks and restoring the Chesapeake Bay.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-04-04 15:04:35 UTC
Ehrlich's legislative priorities sputter as session winds down

by Andrew A. Green (Baltimore Sun Staff)

April 4, 2005

With a week to go in the legislative session, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich
Jr. has yet to see a single vote cast against any of his proposals on
the floor of the House of Delegates this year.

But that's because only his least-contentious ideas have made it
through the legislative process, while others have stalled, giving him
a mixed record at this point in the last session before attention
shifts to next year's election.

Ehrlich proclaimed 2005 the "year of the child" when unveiling his
agenda, and he has won successes on a package of bills to extend the
time teenage drivers have provisional licenses and increase penalties
for underage drunken driving.

But his bill to step up lead paint enforcement has yet to make it to
the floor of the Senate. And his effort to elevate the Office of
Children, Youth and Families to Cabinet-level status was so badly
gutted by a House committee that Republican delegates last week amended
the bill to remove Ehrlich from the list of sponsors.

Other priority bills, including tax credits for veterans, additional
medical malpractice lawsuit reforms, and measures to stop witness
intimidation and to legalize slot machines, have stalled in one chamber
or the other.

"There have been a lot of games played with some of his initiatives,
most notably [the children's office proposal], but they're simply that,
games," said Ehrlich communications director Paul E. Schurick. "Cool
heads will prevail."

It's common for a governor's bills to get stuck until the very end of
the session, as legislative leaders hold up passage for leverage on
other issues. Many bills could be approved in the final hours before
the session's April 11 close.

Still, Ehrlich's record for brokering last-minute legislative
compromises is not strong -- and his store of good will among
Democratic leaders was diminished by a rancorous special session over
medical malpractice in December.

Democrats likely will try in the next election to paint the governor as
more interested in blaming the legislature for his failures than in
doing the work needed to pass his initiatives.

But Ehrlich probably will argue that he has won key victories in spite
of a legislature stacked 2-to-1 with members of the other party. Among
those successes are last year's vote on the so-called flush tax to help
clean the Chesapeake Bay, and an increase in car tag fees that has
funded transportation projects around the state.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, a Washington County Republican, said
Ehrlich's portrayal of the legislature as obstructionist is getting
through, and he predicts that voters will consider that in evaluating
his accomplishments.

"The governor on all these issues has shown a willingness to
compromise, and in return he gets slapped around by the legislature,"
Shank said. As a result, the governor will be "even more popular" in
districts like Shank's, the delegate said.

It looks unlikely at this point that the governor will be able to say
he delivered on his pledge to legalize slots. But if enough of his
financing plan for the Intercounty Connector is approved this year to
allow a groundbreaking on the proposed Washington-area highway, he can
point to a major promise kept when he campaigns next year in Montgomery
and Prince George's counties.

Montgomery is home to many liberal voters who will find fault with
whatever the governor does, but starting the ICC could change enough
minds in that Democratic stronghold to make a statewide victory
difficult for his opponent, said Tom J. Reinheimer, chairman of the
Montgomery County Republican Party.

"He can demonstrate he's actually doing something to work in improving
the transportation mess that's been developing," which is a major
headache for suburban Washington voters, Reinheimer said.

But Democrats say they see Ehrlich as more interested in raising issues
than in solving them.

He has worked for the last three years to bring slot machine gambling
to the forefront. But it landed in his 2005 legislative agenda as an
afterthought, and he has relied on Senate President Thomas V. Mike
Miller, a Democrat, to push a bill through the legislature.

Through intense lobbying, Ehrlich got an impressive 35 out of 43
Republican delegates to support a House slots bill, but he didn't
succeed in getting Miller and House Speaker Michael E. Busch to
negotiate a final compromise.

Ehrlich's medical malpractice reform bill, which he said was necessary
to make up for deficiencies in the compromise approved by the House and
Senate in December's special session, hasn't made it out of committee
in either chamber. Meanwhile, delegates crafted their own package of
limits on malpractice lawsuits without the governor's help.

"The one constant thing I don't see, and I haven't seen it in three
years, is reaching out to moderate and conservative Democrats and
building alliances with them," said Sen. James Brochin, a Towson
Democrat. "Reaching out to me and discussing the issues and showing me
why his issue is important could have easily convinced me."

Matthew Crenson, a political science professor at the Johns Hopkins
University, said the scope of Ehrlich's agenda this year suggests that
he has decided not to risk failure in the aftermath of the political
defeat he suffered when the special session he called ended in a bill
that he vetoed and that the legislature then overrode.

The governor is now saddled with disputes, Crenson said, such as the
aborted plan by members of his administration to sell preservation land
to a construction company owner, and the revelation that a longtime
aide was spreading rumors about Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's
private life. Ehrlich might easily have concluded that it's best to
stick to unobjectionable themes, such as "the year of the child,"
Crenson said.

"I think it's 'the year of the puppy' next year," he said.

Much of Ehrlich's 2002 campaign strategy was to run against what he
called the "culture of corruption" in Annapolis. He still can do that
by attacking the legislature, but it's a less powerful tactic for an
incumbent governor, said Thomas F. Schaller, a public policy professor
at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Schaller said Ehrlich also has to emphasize his accomplishments to be
re-elected. Many of his biggest victories, such as the flush tax and
improvements to the state's minority business program, appeal to
moderate and left-leaning voters, Schaller said.

"Ehrlich has been very adept at becoming this chameleon-like person,"
Schaller said. "The question is whether his sometimes
moderate-to-liberal policies will do damage to him among his base."

Schurick said the governor is proud of his record.

"In the difficult and highly charged environment Annapolis is today,
the governor is once again poised for a successful legislative
session," Schurick said. "The governor looks forward to presenting a
list of substantive accomplishments to the voters. He's anxious to do
that. He's very pleased with what has been achieved."
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-04-11 12:25:32 UTC
It's the kids

Originally published April 11, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

MARYLANDERS didn't need a whistleblower to point out critical fissures
in the state's child welfare system. For the Ehrlich administration to
spend all its energy protesting the actions of an erstwhile ally, whose
recently released e-mail exchanges with top department staff point out
glaring safety issues in Baltimore and elsewhere, while not denying the
substance of her messages, misses the point.
Better to spend the time attacking the problem - that way, things might

For example, the city's Department of Social Services and the
plaintiffs in a consent decree have disagreed for more than 16 years on
the actual number of caseworkers serving the city's 7,000 children in
foster care each year. The plaintiffs have claimed that the department
was artificially reducing the average caseload count by doing such
things as counting more people as caseworkers than were actually
working cases. That would help explain why the reported caseload count
average is closer to the consent-decree goal while state and federal
statistics show that 31 percent of children aren't seeing a caseworker
even once a month. Department secretaries through the years have denied
any such number-fudging, but have been unable to explain the wide
disparities in counts.

Now it turns out that children's cases have been assigned to empty
caseworker slots rather than actual workers, among other unusual
accounting practices, according to internal e-mail. With scores of
positions empty for years, such an error is grave. Children in crisis
get precious little assistance from ghost guardians.

Other children had trouble even getting into the system, especially if
their crises happened at night or on weekends, when the DSS intake
center was seriously understaffed. One e-mail cites an average of 200
calls coming into the center during shifts when just two people were
working. Some of the calls were reports of abuse that later ended in
children's deaths, suggesting that a fully staffed force might have
been able to save them.

The city's DSS has expanded the intake center, is hiring at a rate that
at least keeps up with turnover and now reports an intake caseload
ratio that, while 50 percent more than the consent-decree minimum, does
ring truer. While tardy and crisis-driven, these are improvements.

But its continued failure to ensure that foster parents pass background
checks, that a DSS worker sees each child at home once a month, that
all its school-age children are actually going to school - all mock the
promises the state made to the courts and children in the class-action

Rather than meet its obligations to legislators, the public and the
children and families it promises to serve, this administration sees
conspiracy in the shadows. But there's no secret cabal making sure
caseworkers don't see the children in their care. That's just poor
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-04-12 11:46:48 UTC
Ehrlich has little to show at session end

by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)

BY NOW, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. should be pacing his mansion and spraying
his throat. The governor of Maryland needs his vocal cords ready for
all those friendly talk-show appearances he'll be making now as he
attempts to rewrite the pitiful history of the last 90 days. Somebody
send this guy a lozenge. While you're at it, send him an introduction
to his own General Assembly.

Maybe if he'd been talking to legislators more instead of posing for
the TV cameras and buddying up to the radio boys, he'd have
accomplished something swell this year. It's an old American tradition:
The governor quietly invites grown-ups into his office, and each side
gives a little and takes a little, and in this manner we all get
something besides empty posturing.

Yesterday, the 2005 legislative session ended with Ehrlich newly
returned from his TV trip to Chesapeake Beach bingo machines to hustle
slots, and his TV appearance with adorable schoolchildren, and his TV
appearance with military veterans, and his regular trips to radio
stations where the talk-show hosts have leased space in the governor's
back pocket.

But as the session stumbled to its midnight close yesterday, the
governor had rolled snake eyes for the third straight winter on slots,
his legislative centerpiece, and would have been hard-pressed to point
out any other signs of major success. Every governor wants to declare
victory and go home after the long winter session. But how will this
guy do it?

"I don't know," House Speaker Michael Busch said yesterday. "He makes
up his own set of facts all the time."

"He's banking on people not caring," said Jann K. Jackson, executive
director of Advocates for Children and Youth, as she looked around the
State House. "He'll go on the radio and blame everybody else. And if
you're not paying attention, you don't know any differently."

Jackson remembers a couple of years ago, when Ehrlich ran for office
promising to reform juvenile justice. Promises, promises. Then she
heard Ehrlich call this the year of the child. Jackson sneers at the
phrase. For all the empty promises, she has seen the recent reports of
big juvenile-services money troubles and continuing accounts of child
abuse at detention centers. And she's seen the investigation, by this
newspaper, detailing troubles in foster homes -- often because there's
an absence of strong state oversight.

"Juvenile services," said Baltimore County Del. Bobby Zirkin, "is in
absolute free-fall. They're broke and already in the hole for next
year. Group homes are a complete disaster. And this administration
hasn't come up with a single creative idea. Not one."

Year of the child, indeed.

"Instead of working with the people he needs to work with -- his own
legislators -- the governor goes on the radio and blasts these people,"
said Howard County Del. Shane Pendergrass. "It's about good faith. He
says, 'The problem's with the legislature, I'm the good guy, they're
the bad guys.' If your agenda is blasting the other party, then he
accomplished something. If it's doing the state's work, then he's been
an abysmal failure."

This was the governor who opened the session calling for mutual
"respect" and bad-mouthed his opponents on the radio. He's the governor
who scrambled to avoid connection to the scurrilous rumors spread by
one of his aides about Martin O'Malley. He's the governor now facing
hearings about hirings and firings based on political leanings. He's
the governor who made slots the centerpiece of everything, and tried to
run the table.

"He's like somebody in need of intervention," said Montgomery County
Del. Peter Franchot. "He's all by himself. He has nothing to show in
this session, nothing but lint in his pockets. He needs competent
outside people to come in and tell him what to do.

"Did you see him down there?" Franchot said. He meant Ehrlich's
Chesapeake Beach bingo appearance, and he made a gesture like a man
pulling a handle on a slot machine. "He's there like it's 4 in the
morning, and he's trying desperately to get his money back. But you
reap what you sow. This is a governor who's refused to put in the hard
work for a compromise. He'd rather go on radio and TV. But he's
hijacked the legislature by linking 98 percent of everything he's
proposed to slot machines."

Republicans don't buy this, though they're not exactly singing hosannas
over the session. Eastern Shore Del. Michael Smigiel said his
constituents blame House Speaker Busch for the failure of slots. "They
say, 'Tell me who's running against him, and we'll back him,'" said

On the House floor yesterday, Republican whip Anthony J. O'Donnell,
from Southern Maryland, said Democrats are telling one another, "We
can't let [Ehrlich] look good. If he looks good, he'll get re-elected
next year."

But, as the final hours ticked away yesterday, Baltimore Del. Curtis
Anderson wearily declared, "It's the same old story. Ehrlich will call
up the radio stations and blame the Democrats. He won't mention his own
part. Like medical malpractice. How do you call that a priority and not
even testify for it? We had an empty seat there. If that had been
William Donald Schaefer and he wanted something, you can bet he'd be in
the room, looking you in the eye. This guy just doesn't show up that
much. But he's on the radio, isn't he?"

So send your governor a throat lozenge. Or an introduction to his own
General Assembly.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-05-02 21:26:51 UTC
Governor is dissatisfied with Sun investigation

by Liz Halloran and Stephen Kiehl (Baltimore Sun Staff)

April 22, 2005

The Ehrlich administration said yesterday that it was unsatisfied with
the results of a four-month investigation by The Sun's public editor
that found all but a handful of its complaints about the newspaper's
coverage of the governor to be unfounded.

"We find it lackluster and inadequate," said Shareese N. DeLeaver, a
spokeswoman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. "We gave specific instances
of various inaccuracies and mistakes, and the administration does not
feel they were adequately addressed with this editor's column."

The Sun published yesterday the results of public editor Paul Moore's
investigation into a list of 23 grievances provided by the
administration. Moore called Ehrlich's claims of grievous, purposeful
mistakes "grossly exaggerated."

The complaints were given privately to Sun executives in December,
after the administration had banned state executive branch employees
from speaking with Sun columnist Michael Olesker and State House bureau
chief David Nitkin. The ban remains in effect.

Ehrlich said yesterday afternoon that he had not read Moore's report.
He said, "I look forward to the day when we can just get over it."

Sun editor Timothy A. Franklin said the newspaper's investigation
demonstrated its commitment to accuracy. The newspaper has corrected or
clarified four items on the list.

"Hopefully it shows our readers that we've taken the governor's
complaints very seriously," Franklin said. "We've invested a lot of
time and effort in looking into his complaints, and to the best of our
ability have tried to correct or clarify mistakes that we made."

Franklin took issue with statements from the administration questioning
Moore's independence. DeLeaver described Moore's work as "the
equivalent of the fox guarding the henhouse."

As public editor, Moore reports directly to publisher Denise A. Palmer,
not to Franklin or any newsroom editor. Franklin said Moore's
investigation was "thorough and credible" and did not pull punches.

But DeLeaver, the Ehrlich spokeswoman, said the investigation was
lacking. She pointed to two instances in which the administration
accused Olesker of misquoting state Del. John S. Arnick and Ehrlich
communications director Paul E. Schurick.

Moore found no trouble with the columns. Moore wrote that Olesker had
notes from the Schurick interview and a "clear and detailed
recollection" of the Arnick interview.

"It's the equivalent of, 'He said, she said,'" DeLeaver said. "It's not
the response we were looking for."

The list of grievances, along with more than 130 pages of
administration documents regarding the ban, was released yesterday in
response to public information requests filed by the Maryland Gazette
and The Sun.

The documents included internal administration e-mails about articles
that appeared in The Sun and copies of letters between Jervis S.
Finney, the governor's chief counsel, and Stephanie S. Abrutyn, a
lawyer with the Tribune Co., which owns The Sun. The letters dealt
largely with procedure, including the timing and terms of the December
meeting between Ehrlich and Sun officials.

The administration imposed the ban on Nitkin and Olesker in November.
It came after Nitkin had written articles detailing the state's plan to
sell 836 acres of preserved forestland in St. Mary's County to Willard
Hackerman, a politically connected construction company owner, in a
transaction that could have netted him millions in tax breaks.

The Sun filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court, arguing that the
ban violated the First Amendment rights of the two journalists by
denying them the same opportunities to seek information as other news
organizations and citizens. The paper also said the writers were being
punished for their speech.

A federal judge dismissed The Sun's lawsuit in February, and the
newspaper has appealed to the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in
Richmond, Va.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-05-06 18:14:19 UTC
Ehrlich says he supports wife's speech

By Gretchen Parker, The Associated Press

April 25, 2005, 6:16 PM EDT

ANNAPOLIS -- First lady Kendel Ehrlich, in a fiery speech to Republican
supporters on the lower Eastern Shore, joined her husband's public
fight against newspapers, saying they "lie" and "need to be punished."

As the guest speaker at the lower Shore's Lincoln Day Dinner in Ocean
City on Sunday, Kendel Ehrlich declared herself ready for the campaign
trail and also lashed out at elected Democratic officials, saying their
behavior during the legislative session was "rude" and "despicable",
the Worcester County Times reported.

As broadcast news stations picked up on the comments today, Gov. Robert
L. Ehrlich Jr. moved quickly to support his wife and to clarify her
remarks. Speaking alone to reporters, he said Kendel Ehrlich's beef is
specifically with The Sun and The Washington Post -- papers that the
Ehrlichs say are biased against them and don't give them fair coverage.

The governor said he and the first lady were the target of personal
attacks after news broke last year that a longtime aide of the
administration had spread rumors about Democratic rival Martin O'Malley
on the Internet. E-mails released from aide Joseph Steffen's private
account included one from Kendel Ehrlich, in which she said "We need

"Kendel appears to have been a target, and she takes that personally,
too," the governor said, referring to Democratic calls for
investigations and the media's coverage of it.

The first lady's remarks also were sparked by her outrage over the
legislature's dismantling of the Governor's Office for Children, Youth
and Families.

"She is quite upset about it, and as you know, she is direct," the
governor said, adding that neither of them strive to be politically

Kendel Ehrlich, speaking to the Republican central committees
Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties, gave a stump-style speech
and called on supporters for help re-electing the governor.

"We need your help, and I mean now. Get your bumper stickers out," she
said, adding, "It is going to be ugly. Most major newspapers are going
to be after him. It's not fun."

She railed on legislative Democrats, saying their behavior "was
despicable, and I am not kidding."

"If our 5-year-old acted like that, he'd be punished," she said during
a speech that raised loud cheers and applause, said those who attended.

"They lie," she said of newspapers, without naming a specific paper. "I
would punish my son if I caught him in a lie, and they need to be

Today, Kendel Ehrlich's spokeswoman Meghann Siwinski said: "I think
she's urging people to not buy the papers, to not read the papers, to
not trust what they read about her husband's administration in the

The remarks were made as the first lady pointed out the party's
accomplishments, said John Bartkovich, chairman of the Wicomico County
Republican Party, who attended the fundraiser.

"Most of the speech was -- this is what we've accomplished, and realize
you're not going to read much about it in the paper but we have done a
lot," he said. "A small part of the speech was -- she wanted to deal
with the issue of the press. I think we all knew what she was talking
about, this issue of press fairness."

The governor's battle with The Sun is ongoing, and the administration
logs daily its complaints the paper's coverage, pointing out what he
feels are errors and omissions in articles, editorials and cartoons.

The newspaper sued Ehrlich last year after the Republican governor
prohibited employees of the executive branch from talking to a Sun
reporter and columnist. The newspaper claimed the ban violated the
writers' First Amendment rights by denying them the same opportunities
to seek information as anyone else. The suit was dismissed, and the
paper has filed an appeal.

"I don't think we would have been in business for 168 years by telling
lies in the newspaper," Sun editor Tim Franklin said.

The executive editor of The Washington Post declined to comment today.

Josh White, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said
the first couple's comments are misguided.

"We think the Ehrlich administration should address the Steffen issue
before they start handing out blame for personal attacks," White said.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-05-06 18:17:34 UTC

Kendel Ehrlich joins husband in fight against newspapers

Associated Press

April 26, 2005

First lady Kendel Ehrlich, in a fiery speech to Republican supporters
on the lower Eastern Shore, joined her husband's public fight against
newspapers, saying they "lie" and "need to be punished."

As the guest speaker at the Lower Shore's Lincoln Day Dinner in Ocean
City on Sunday, Kendel Ehrlich also lashed out at elected Democratic
officials, saying their behavior during the legislative session was
"rude" and "despicable," the Worcester County Times reported.

As broadcast news stations picked up on the comments yesterday, Gov.
Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. moved quickly to support his wife and to clarify
her remarks. Speaking alone to reporters, he said her complaint is
specifically with The Sun and The Washington Post - papers that the
Ehrlichs say are biased against them and don't provide fair coverage.

The governor said he and the first lady were the target of personal
attacks after news broke this year that a longtime administration aide
had spread rumors about Democratic rival Martin O'Malley on the
Internet. E-mail released from aide Joseph F. Steffen Jr.'s private
account included one from Kendel Ehrlich in which she said, "We need

"Kendel appears to have been a target, and she takes that personally,
too," the governor said, referring to Democratic calls for
investigations and the news media's coverage of it.

The first lady's remarks also were sparked by her outrage over the
legislature's dismantling of the Governor's Office for Children, Youth
and Families. "She is quite upset about it, and as you know, she is
direct," the governor said.

Kendel Ehrlich, speaking to the Republican central committees of
Worcester, Wicomico and Somerset counties, called on supporters for
help in re-electing the governor.

"We need your help, and I mean now. Get your bumper stickers out," she
said, adding, "It is going to be ugly. Most major newspapers are going
to be after him. It's not fun."

She railed against legislative Democrats, saying their behavior "was

"If our 5-year-old acted like that, he'd be punished," she said during
a speech that was met with loud cheers and applause, according to some
who attended.

"They lie," the first lady said of newspapers, not naming any. "I would
punish my son if I caught him in a lie, and they need to be punished."

Yesterday, her spokeswoman, Meghann Siwinski, said: "I think she's
urging people to not buy the papers, to not read the papers, to not
trust what they read about her husband's administration in the papers."

The remarks were made as the first lady pointed out the party's
accomplishments, said John Bartkovich, chairman of the Wicomico County
Republican Central Committee.

"Most of the speech was, 'This is what we've accomplished, and realize
you're not going to read much about it in the paper but we have done a
lot,'" he said. "A small part of the speech was, she wanted to deal
with the issue of the press. I think we all knew what she was talking
about, this issue of press fairness."

In the governor's battle with The Sun, the administration logs daily
its complaints on coverage, pointing out what he feels are errors and
omissions in articles, editorials and cartoons.

The newspaper sued Ehrlich last year after the governor prohibited
executive branch employees from talking to a Sun reporter and
columnist. The newspaper contended that the ban violated the writers'
First Amendment rights by denying them the same opportunities to seek
information as anyone else. The suit was dismissed, and the paper has

"I don't think we would have been in business for 168 years by telling
lies in the newspaper," Sun editor Timothy A. Franklin said.

The executive editor of the Post declined to comment.

Josh White, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party, said
the Ehrlichs' comments are misguided. "We think the ... administration
should address the Steffen issue before they start handing out blame
for personal attacks," White said.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-05-10 13:21:33 UTC
Ehrlich 'talking points' yet another sign of the bitter times in

by Michael Olesker

May 3, 2005

IN THEIR LATEST bid to mask thumb-in-your-eye contentiousness as
political civility, those nice people in the Ehrlich administration
have now offered us a swell new explanation: Every other governor did
it, so why shouldn't we?

There are two problems with this: It is no excuse for a grownup; and it
happens not to be true.

Ask state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, the former governor who
happens to be Robert L. Ehrlich's buddy most of the time. Or ask
Michael Morrill, who worked for the governor who preceded Ehrlich. Or
Lou Panos, who worked for the governor who preceded Schaefer.

But first, a little background for those arriving late to the story. We
learned the other day that the Ehrlich press office has distributed
sets of "talking points" to public information officers across state
government, which were then issued to rank-and-file, nonpolitical
employees in at least one state agency and intended to be spread across
the land as gospel. These "talking points" exalt the governor and bash
his opponents.

The immediate question is: Why ask state employees to do such a thing?
Isn't this kind of toadyism already handled by the radio talk-show

The governor's office bills this as an effort to "get the facts out to
the public and those who communicate with the public."

What kinds of "facts" are they talking about? Well, they assert that
the General Assembly "passed ridiculous legislation," and that it
wouldn't "honor veterans," wouldn't "help doctors and patients,"
wouldn't "protect vulnerable children and families," and was "entirely
irresponsible" to have passed a bill that would require Wal-Mart to
spend more on its employees' health care.

Ehrlich did not accuse these legislators of burning down any
orphanages, but this might have been an oversight on his part.

Or he might have been busy overseeing his office's defense: Other
governors did the same thing.

In answer to this, we turn to cooler heads than his. Schaefer, for
example. And Panos, who handled press relations for Gov. Harry Hughes,
and Morrill, who handled them for Gov. Parris N. Glendening.

"What we did," Morrill said yesterday, "was put out summaries at the
end of sessions, listing what we got accomplished. We didn't say,
'Here's where the press got it wrong,' or 'Here's what the speaker [of
the House] did wrong,' or why anybody opposing us got it wrong.

"The difference is that this administration has taken on this hostile
attitude, and tried to sway perceptions of the media. That's the
Orwellian part. ... If they're asking nonpolitical state employees to
act in certain ways, that's unethical. If you're putting a list of
talking points on [state] Web sites, you're creating a climate of
expectation [among employees] that you must abide by standard political
orthodoxy. I don't recall that ever being done."

Schaefer, recalling his own days as governor, said yesterday, "I never
did anything like that. I didn't have to."

Schaefer, who has crossed party lines to bond with Ehrlich, indicated
that this governor might be overcompensating for what Ehrlich perceives
as unfair news media treatment. This would not include much of talk
radio, which has become a kind of collective safe house where Ehrlich
can vent and answer softball questions - and never fear he will be

For a governor who opened this year's legislative session by lecturing
sanctimoniously about the need for civility and respect, we will add
the "talking points" to a growing list: Ehrlich railing against an
alleged "culture of corruption in Annapolis" when it suited his
election needs; his party's slash-and-burn radio ads against
legislators who disagreed with him on medical malpractice; his labeling
of House Speaker Michael E. Busch as "playing the race card" when he
disagreed with him on slot machines.

And now these "talking points," about which Democrats quickly invoked
the ghost of George Orwell: This notion of having nonpolitical state
employees turned into partisan puppets whose jobs might be threatened
if they don't go along with the program.

That's not a charge to be taken lightly for a governor already
criticized for highly controversial and highly publicized political
hirings and firings.

Panos, who now writes a political column for the Patuxent Publishing
newspaper chain (owned by The Baltimore Sun Co.), said of the Ehrlich
"talking points," "They're typical of the bitter, take-no-prisoners
atmosphere that has sifted down from Washington to Annapolis and
throughout the country.

"I don't remember anything like this happening," where department heads
were told to puff up the governor and tear down the opposition, he
said. "In fact, when I first came in, I had to call [Kalman R.] 'Buzzy'
Hettleman, who was running Human Resources, to suggest that he at least
include the name of the governor somewhere in their department reports.
He said it hadn't occurred to him or anyone else."

It was a different time in Annapolis. It was a time when governors
didn't seek exaggerated credit for every routine achievement, real or
imagined, and didn't feel the need to tear down opponents with
accusations of wrongdoing - also, real or imagined.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-05-19 14:00:17 UTC
Brief assails Ehrlich ban on pair of Sun journalists

by A Baltimore Sun Staff Writer

May 17, 2005

A comprehensive brief from Sun lawyers challenging Gov. Robert L.
Ehrlich Jr.'s ban on two Sun journalists has been filed with the 4th
U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va.

"The Governor has boldly punished two journalists and their newspaper
based solely upon the Governor's subjective displeasure with what they
had to say," Sun lawyers concluded in the argument filed Friday.

"Such conduct not only is hostile to the First Amendment, but it also
renders constitutional safeguards completely illusory," they said.

In making their case, the lawyers contended that a U.S. District Court
judge erred when he concluded that the paper was seeking special access
to Maryland government officials.

"The Sun and its journalists seek - not preferred access - but the
right not to have the highest official in the state deny them the same
privileges afforded to any citizen," they said.

The 50-page brief was filed in support of an appeal of a February
decision by U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. dismissing a Sun
lawsuit challenging the ban. The Sun appealed the ruling two months

The ban, now six months old, targets David Nitkin, now Maryland
political editor, and columnist Michael Olesker. It was imposed after
Nitkin disclosed a state proposal to sell 836 acres of preserved
forestland in St. Mary's County to Willard Hackerman, a politically
connected construction company owner, in a deal that could have netted
him millions in tax breaks.

The Sun filed suit in December to have the ban lifted. Quarles rejected
that request and granted Ehrlich's motion to dismiss the case. The
paper is appealing both decisions.

A spokeswoman for Ehrlich said yesterday that the governor's office had
no comment on the appeal.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-06-08 19:10:26 UTC
Md. politics: 'Abuse of power' meets 'whining'

by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)

May 19, 2005

There they were, on stage yesterday at that gentle springtime ritual
called the Flower Mart, gritting their teeth for the assembled crowd
and pretending they feel a rose petal's ounce of civility for each
other: the mayor of Baltimore, Martin O'Malley, and the first lady of
Maryland, Kendel Ehrlich, separated only by that thin layer of human
diplomacy and tact named William Donald Schaefer. Schaefer, wearing a
battered railroad engineer's cap and sticking his tongue out for the
cameras, is now the calm one out there. Oh, Lord.

"Hello, Mrs. Ehrlich," the mayor said he had declared formally as the
state comptroller got out of the way. O'Malley did not precisely look
Mrs. Ehrlich in the eye. She nodded back, equally avoiding eye contact
and not betraying any hostile impulses. Then they went back to their
neutral corners, and Schaefer stepped between them again. And this,
friends, is what passes for political peace in our time.

At least, for the moment.

But it was brief. For, in the morning, there was O'Malley at a City
Hall news conference, letting go but good. And, in the afternoon,
moments after he and Mrs. Ehrlich left the Flower Mart platform,
O'Malley vented some more. And somewhere in between, not to let the
moment slip past, there was Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. himself,
bringing to the day that special brand of "respect" that he stressed so
earnestly in his state of the state speech this year and apparently
forgot five minutes later.

"Whining," the governor called the mayor's remarks yesterday.

"Cowardly abuse of power," said O'Malley, seething over rumors spread
about his marriage, and the latest spin on the story.
"Taxpayer-financed dirty tricks," he said. "And I'm calling on the
governor to stop right now the politics of character smear and
character assassination."

"Whining is not a leadership style," the governor responded. "I don't
like whiners. I've never associated with whiners."

This, from the governor who seems to spend half his time on the radio,
bemoaning all the bad people keeping his administration from getting
anything accomplished for the past three years.

And so, just when you thought it was safe not to think any more about
Joseph F. Steffen Jr., the man Ehrlich once cheerfully crowned the
Prince of Darkness, Steffen and the rumors he helped spread about the
O'Malley marriage are back with us.

At his news conference yesterday, the mayor said Ehrlich operatives had
fed WBAL radio information on a five-year-old e-mail from Max Curran
III, the brother of the mayor's wife, Judge Katie Curran O'Malley. In
the e-mail, Curran called his sister a "loose cannon."

This, after she was quoted in a March 2000 Washington Post article
saying the mayor's public praise of her beauty "helps offset the rumors
... that he's running around on me. That he's been running around on me
for years."

In the article, the mayor's wife said her husband's opponents had been
spreading the rumors.

As the governor's people see it, this recycling of a five-year-old
remark practically takes Steffen off the hook. Never mind that Steffen
admitted spreading the rumors and took the fall for them - at least
this shows he didn't start them, say the governor's people.

Question: If Steffen's not such a bad guy, why did Ehrlich fire him
when Steffen's e-mails were made public?

Question: Why did Ehrlich say he would take the mayor aside and make
amends for any bad feelings over the Steffen incident?

O'Malley says he's still waiting for such a gesture.

"This is not an honorable man," O'Malley said yesterday, standing alone
at the edge of the Flower Mart. "He made this public statement when he
[fired Steffen] about how he was going to apologize to me. I've seen
him at event after event. He slinks away from me every time. He always
carefully diverts his entourage elsewhere."

O'Malley had left the Flower Mart reviewing stand by now. He paused
with his wife and two of his children outside the Walters Art Museum.
He repeated his remarks from the morning news conference: about
character assassination, about "a premeditated, orchestrated and
relentless campaign run by dirty tricks operatives close to the
governor, funded on state taxpayer dollars."

And he called on Ehrlich "to release the thousands of e-mails
pertaining to Joe Steffen that he has refused to release" and "end this
cowardly abuse of power."

By this time, Ehrlich offered his own broadside. He'd spoken to the
Maryland Business Council, at Towson University, and taken questions
afterward from half a dozen reporters about the latest flap.

That's when Ehrlich cited O'Malley's "whining." He used the word five
different times, so he must have meant it.

So let's get this straight: A man has rumors spread about his marriage
by one of the governor's long-time aides - an aide who claimed that "a
few folks put in a lot of effort to ensure the story got some real
float." The rumors have been spread across the state for months and

And, when he tries to defend himself and his family, the governor of
Maryland calls this whining?
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-06-09 14:51:13 UTC
Sun backed in lawsuit challenging Ehrlich ban

by Stephen Kiehl (Baltimore Sun Staff)

May 24, 2005

A coalition of the nation's leading news organizations filed a legal
brief yesterday supporting The Sun in its lawsuit against Gov. Robert
L. Ehrlich Jr., contending that the governor's ban on two Sun
journalists was an act "characteristic of repressive regimes."

The 27-page amicus brief was filed in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in Richmond, Va., by lawyers representing the New York Times
Co., The Washington Post, the Associated Press, Time Inc., CNN, the
E.W. Scripps Co. and Advance Publications Inc.

An array of news professional associations also joined the brief.

"The First Amendment is designed to protect the press and the public
against governmental attempts to restrict speech disapproved of by
those in power," the brief said. "Yet the Governor's order, by his own
admission, seeks to do precisely that: he seeks to coerce journalists
into providing coverage that is pleasing to him on pain of being
subject to an official boycott if they do not."

The brief argues that Ehrlich cannot exclude journalists from the
normal channels of news- gathering - such as interviewing state
officials - based on the content of their reporting. The Sun is not
asking for special treatment or to have every phone call returned, the
brief said, but merely to have access to the ordinary channels
available to all other reporters.

Ehrlich's ban harms not only The Sun - in its ability to assign
reporters of its choosing to the State House - but also other news
organizations, the brief said. "In short, the retaliation against The
Sun's reporter and columnist has an undeniable chilling effect on all
those who report on the affairs of Maryland state government," the
brief said.

"This official boycott is offensive to the most basic principles of the
First Amendment," the brief argued, noting that it compromises, if not
destroys, the journalists' ability to perform the constitutionally
protected function of reporting on and writing about government.

"This kind of official control of the press is characteristic of
repressive regimes, but it is alien to nations founded on principles of
free speech and free press," the lawyers wrote. "It is abhorrent to our
Constitution and should be repudiated by this Court."

A spokeswoman for Ehrlich declined to comment on the brief filed
yesterday. Kevin Enright, spokesman for the state attorney general's
office, which represents the governor in the suit, also declined

Numerous press associations also signed the brief, including the
American Society of Newspaper Editors and the Society of Professional
Journalists. Other professional organizations, including the state
press associations of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina and South
Carolina, signed as well.

Ehrlich's ban, now six months old, forbids state executive branch
employees from speaking with Sun columnist Michael Olesker and Maryland
political editor David Nitkin. The ban was imposed after Nitkin
disclosed a state proposal to sell 836 acres of preserved forestland in
St. Mary's County to Willard Hackerman, a politically connected
construction company owner, in a deal that could have netted him
millions of dollars in tax breaks.

The ban "essentially allows the governor to create an enemies list,"
said Andy Alexander, Washington bureau chief for Cox Newspapers and
chairman of the Freedom of Information Committee of ASNE.

"Governor Ehrlich has instructed public officials who are paid by
taxpayers to refrain from imparting information to the public. ... If
it can be done to two journalists for the Baltimore Sun, others can be
singled out."

The Sun filed suit in December to have the ban lifted. In February,
U.S. District Judge William D. Quarles Jr. rejected that request and
granted Ehrlich's motion to dismiss the case. The paper is appealing
both decisions.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-06-10 20:54:27 UTC
Mr. Ehrlich's vetoes

May 25, 2005 (Baltimore SUN Editorial)

WHEN A MARYLAND governor vetoes 25 bills under the cover of Preakness
Friday, it's clear he doesn't want the public to hear about it. And
when he's waffling on a key veto the very next day, the matter deserves
some extra scrutiny.

So here's the big news: Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. thinks unmarried
couples (including those of the same sex) shouldn't be able to make
medical decisions for each other. Or maybe he does but he just doesn't
like having them registered as "life partners." As it happens, he
vetoed the medical decision legislation but was on the air Saturday
telling AM talk-radio listeners that he wants to accomplish much the
same thing with his own bill next year.

Mr. Ehrlich also demonstrated an aversion to tax cuts for unmarried
couples sharing title to a property. We know this because he deep-sixed
legislation to allow property owners the right to add the name of a
significant other to a deed without paying transfer taxes, just as
married couples can. (Unmarried couples would have to sign a legal
document attesting to their relationship.) He called the proposal a
"tax avoidance technique." If only he cast the same scrutiny toward
limited liability corporations that buy and sell shopping malls without
paying a dime of transfer taxes. Instead of life partners, proponents
should have called themselves "Delaware holding companies."

Once again, Mr. Ehrlich is kowtowing to the Pat Robertson/Jerry Falwell
wing of the Republican Party. He's fearful that both bills are going to
be petitioned to ballot next year (by members of his own party) and
hurt his support among religious conservatives. That seems unlikely.
The politics of an election year should prevent a veto override. But
we'll give him this -- at least the governor has his limits. He chose
not to veto legislation adding sexual orientation to Maryland's hate
crime law and another that will require schools to monitor bullying.

It was disappointing that Mr. Ehrlich felt obliged to veto the $6.15
minimum wage. His official explanation uses the same tired old excuse
that a higher minimum wage kills jobs. While we'd prefer to see the
federal minimum wage keep up with inflation (and keep employers on a
level playing field), a growing number of states are joining the cause
to offset Washington's recalcitrance. Mr. Ehrlich's veto just
exacerbates the real problem -- the hardship placed on families by
below-subsistence-level wages. Fortunately, it seems likely the General
Assembly will overturn this sop to corporate interests when it
reconvenes next January.

Finally, we would be remiss if we did not praise the governor's
decision to veto legislation that would have required Wal-Mart to
devote at least 8 percent of its payroll costs to health insurance.
Maryland has no business micromanaging a private employer. But it was a
shame that Mr. Ehrlich didn't use the occasion to more seriously
address the bill's underlying purpose -- to protect businesses that pay
their fair share of health care costs. Too many Marylanders lack health
insurance now. And Mr. Ehrlich's veto pen offers no strategy for
protecting the state's more-responsible employers or its beleaguered
taxpayers from that growing burden.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-07-22 17:39:51 UTC
At 'exclusive' club, Ehrlich goes inexplicably colorblind

by Michael Olesker (Baltimore Sun columnist)

July 5, 2005

FROM Groucho Marx, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. could learn half a
lesson. Years ago, Groucho told a story about his daughter, who was not
allowed into a swimming club because she was Jewish. Groucho sent a
letter of complaint to the club.

"My daughter's only half-Jewish," he wrote. "Could she just go in the
water up to her waist?"

Groucho made a joke of it because he was a comic. Sometimes laughter's
more powerful than rage. But it's half a century later, and we're all
supposed to know better now than to isolate people by religion or race
or anything similarly hurtful.

Week before last, Ehrlich held a golfing fund-raiser at the Elkridge
Club, out there on North Charles Street by the Baltimore city-county
line. Pay a thousand bucks, and get to schmooze obsequiously with the
governor of Maryland.

But don't expect to hang out with Michael Steele in that same setting,
due to the conditions of birth of the lieutenant governor of Maryland.
The Elkridge Club is generally referred to as "exclusive." This is
intended to indicate the wealth and social connections of its members.
But here it means not just blue blood, but a certain color of skin.

As several Elkridge members and former officers confirmed to The Sun
last week, there has not been a black person admitted to membership in
the club in its entire 127-year history, although the club has been
magnanimous enough to let minorities on occasion dine or play golf

Like Groucho's daughter halfway into the pool, maybe they only played
the first nine holes.

It is the year 2005, and there are still places in America
distinguishing people by skin color, and one of them is the Elkridge
Club, where Ehrlich raises $100,000 in one day by holding his
fund-raiser there.

By state law, clubs must have inclusionary policies (not barring women,
blacks, or other minority groups from joining), and the clubs must
assure this by disclosing their membership rolls to the state, to get a
property tax break on their highly valuable land. In 1977, the Elkridge
Club decided to forfeit that break rather than turn over its membership
list -- and it has stuck by that decision.

Asked by a Sun reporter about holding his gubernatorial fund-raiser at
such a club, Governor Ehrlich's response was: "I'm not going to answer
this question," because it was "hypothetical." When it was confirmed
that the club has never had any black members, and Ehrlich spokesman
Henry Fawell was asked for a response, Fawell said, "It is
inappropriate for government employees to comment on political

Oh, please.

What would it take for the governor of Maryland to say, "I wouldn't
want to hang out at any club that would exclude somebody like Michael

Is that so hard to say?

This is a governor who has gained much political capital -- and rightly
so -- by choosing Maryland's first African-American running mate. He
has also been accused (by this newspaper, among others) of choosing him
not because Steele had a particularly inspiring personal history but
for the sheer symbolic strength of his skin color.

Now is the chance for Ehrlich to show otherwise, to say that Steele is
more than a symbol, to say that his selection really does stand for a
new day of understanding and mutual respect, that he really is a
spiritual brother as well as a political partner. And that such a
person (or any person) should not be subjected to this kind of
historical, isolation by any organization, any more than Jews or
Italians, or Greeks or Salvadorans, or any other minority might be kept
out for reason of ethnicity.

This is the governor who's still trying to explain his remark on the
radio that multiculturalism is "crap" and "bunk." But
"multiculturalism" is just a word. Michael Steele is supposed to be
Ehrlich's friend -- as well as the second-ranking member of state
government. A year ago, when he was asked about Ehrlich's
"multiculturalism" outburst, Steele said, "I'm comfortable with my

How comfortable is he with a country club that hasn't allowed any black
people to be members, and a governor who can't seem to understand that
we don't like to stigmatize people by background in multicultural

The response to all of this has been predictable. Democrats have
accused Ehrlich of insensitivity. Blacks have done the same. Which
leaves us asking: Why? Why doesn't Ehrlich simply say, "It's a mistake
for the leader of the Free State to hold any kind of function at a club
that isolates people by background. I didn't realize its history. It
wouldn't have happened if I had."

Why can't he say that? Is it because this governor, when backed to a
wall, instinctively goes on the attack? Is it because he understands
there are still racial divisions in this country and, since there are
more white voters than black, that this is an issue that works for him
mathematically, if not morally?

Years ago, asked to join a country club, Groucho Marx famously joked,
"I don't care to belong to any club that will accept me as a member."

Robert L. Ehrlich should say, "I can't respect any club that won't
accept Michael Steele as a member."

Is that so hard to say?
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-07-29 12:57:29 UTC
It's not about golf

July 7, 2005 (Baltimore Sun Editorial)

WHAT WAS Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. thinking when he attended a
fund-raiser last month at the Elkridge Club, which has never had an
African-American member? It turns out that he hasn't been bothered a
bit - by the club's history or by criticism that he ignored it.

Responses this week by Governor Ehrlich and by Lt. Gov. Michael S.
Steele that the club's membership is not their concern are
unacceptable. It's not enough for Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, to point
fingers and complain that Democrats have also used the club. We don't
defend those Democrats either. But Mr. Ehrlich and Mr. Steele are the
top two officers in the government of a richly diverse, progressive
state. They are supposed to set the example.

Elkridge, Baltimore's oldest country club, has forfeited a state tax
exemption for nearly 30 years rather than disclose its membership
roster to demonstrate that it's not restrictive. But members and former
officers have confirmed to The Sun that the club has never had a black
member in its 127-year history. After Mr. Ehrlich's $1,000-a-head golf
fund-raiser there on June 20, some African-American leaders raised
strong objections.

When questioned on a radio show this week, Mr. Ehrlich said, "I don't
know what their membership is, and guess what? It's not my business."
He accused his critics of applying a double standard because prominent
Democrats, including Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith, have
held events there without coming under similar fire. Mr. Smith, who
attended a fund-raiser at Elkridge in May that was hosted by one of his
supporters, now says through a spokeswoman that he did not know about
the club's membership, but that he won't have any future campaign
events there.

That's what Mr. Ehrlich should have said. Instead, he appears to have
callously disregarded a significant group of citizens. Even worse,
however, was the reaction of Mr. Steele, who told the Associated Press,
"I don't know much about the club, the membership, nor do I care, quite
frankly, because I don't play golf." Excuse us, but this is not about
golf. It's about a history of struggle against discrimination and lack
of opportunity to which, quite frankly, the first African-American
lieutenant governor of Maryland ought to be more attuned.

It may be just a matter of time, internal pressure and the external
marketplace before private clubs that restrict members on the basis of
race or gender will change their policies. But certainly public
officials - regardless of party affiliation - shouldn't appear to
endorse such exclusionary policies by patronizing those clubs.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-08-03 19:21:15 UTC
Duncan calls on Ehrlich to apologize

by David Nitkin (Baltimore Sun Staff)

July 13, 2005

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan, an all-but-declared
candidate for governor, called on Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday
to apologize for raising money for re-election at a country club that
has never admitted a black member, saying Ehrlich is "trying to divide

Duncan, a Democrat, said he wrote a letter to Ehrlich "to urge you to
publicly apologize for your poor judgment in holding a fund-raiser at
the Elkridge Club, an exclusive club which has not had an
African-American in its 127-year history."

"Your refusal to apologize for holding this event at a club that
discriminates -- and your refusal to denounce the club's policies -- is
completely unacceptable," Duncan wrote. "Your failure to apologize is a
slap in the face to all fair-minded Marylanders."

A spokesman for the governor, Henry Fawell, said Ehrlich had no comment
on Duncan's demand. Republican Party officials said Ehrlich has a
laudable record in hiring and appointing black officials, and they
accused Duncan of political posturing.

Duncan sent a related letter to Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, his
probable opponent in a Democratic primary. He asked the mayor to join
him in denouncing Ehrlich and to pledge to refrain from holding events
at private country clubs with membership policies that exclude women,
blacks and others.

O'Malley's campaign manager said the mayor has not and will not sponsor
events at such locations. The mayor did not return a call for comment

Ehrlich, a Republican, raised $100,000 for his expected re-election bid
at a June 20 daylong event at the club, which straddles the Baltimore
City-county line on Charles Street. Former club officers and current
members confirmed to The Sun that no African-American has been offered
membership there since the club's founding in 1878.

Prominent African-American leaders have decried the club's membership
roster, and several have criticized Ehrlich for holding an event there
and for the response from him and Lt. Gov. Michael S. Steele since news
of the fund-raiser was published.

"I don't know what their membership is, and guess what? It's not my
business. It's a private club, which we rented," Ehrlich said in a
radio interview early last week.

Steele told the Associated Press, "I don't know that much about the
club, the membership, nor do I care, quite frankly, because I don't
play golf. It's not an issue with me."

Duncan's letter comes a day after he and Ehrlich shared a handshake
during an announcement that the governor had selected a route for the
Inter-County Connector highway in the Washington suburbs.

Duncan said he did not raise the country club issue with Ehrlich on
Monday because it was a "different event."

He said he issued his call yesterday because "I was waiting for the
governor to apologize. Rather than apologize, he dug his feet in the
ground. I was waiting for Steele to reconsider his comments, as well.
What they are doing is an affront to a lot of people in the state. At a
time when we need to bring people together and build community, they
are trying to divide us."

Duncan's letter said that Ehrlich's lack of an apology "further deepens
those wounds" first opened last year when Ehrlich called
multiculturalism "bunk" and "crap."

Montgomery County is home to several exclusive clubs, including Burning
Tree, which has been the subject of extensive state litigation for its
practice of excluding women. Duncan said he has never held a
fund-raising event at Burning Tree.

The O'Malley campaign, which has been reluctant to respond to Duncan's
forays into Baltimore and his jabs at the mayor's record, said
yesterday that it would follow a policy of staying away from exclusive
country clubs.

"Martin O'Malley won't hold events at clubs that discriminate," said
Jonathan Epstein, the mayor's campaign manager. The campaign has found
no examples of prior campaign events at similar facilities.

Duncan sent an additional letter to the state Democratic Party, asking
the party to refrain from frequenting exclusive clubs.

"We absolutely abide by that rule," said Democratic Party Chairman
Terry Lierman, adding that Ehrlich and Steele's response to the issue
has inflamed the problem. "This is an example of their right-wing
arrogance with a comment that they didn't care," he said. "That alone
speaks volumes as to how they feel about human and civil rights."

Republican Party Chairman John M. Kane said Ehrlich has a laudable
record on civil rights, noting that his lieutenant governor is
Maryland's first black statewide elected official.

"Across the board, his record on supporting minorities and not
supporting racism has been very clear," said Kane. Duncan's demand,
Kane said, "is partisan politics in an election year."

Ehrlich has accused The Sun of a double-standard for not reporting on
Democrats who held events at the club. In a follow-up article, the
paper reported that Baltimore County Executive James T. Smith Jr., a
Democrat, attended a May fund-raiser for him at the club. Smith said
that after learning of the club's history, he will hold no more
functions there.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-08-29 15:55:11 UTC
The inflatable surplus

August 29, 2005 (Baltimore SUN Editorial)

WILLIAM DONALD Schaefer made news last week by acknowledging that
Maryland had a $1.2 billion budget surplus on June 30. But how many
heard Mr. Schaefer's full explanation? Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has
already committed half that money to balance the fiscal 2006 budget
that began July 1. In the long term, red ink looms. State spending is
growing at a pace that the current tax structure cannot support.

Mr. Ehrlich claims to be fiscally responsible, yet he continues to
misrepresent his own government's finances. Even Mr. Schaefer, a
staunch Ehrlich supporter, couldn't help but scold the governor's staff
for asking him to trumpet a nonexistent billion-dollar surplus. "They
thought the billion would look better, and it would," the comptroller
said, "but that's not what we're here for."

Let's not ignore good news - higher tax revenues have helped Maryland
(and most other states). But the public needs to understand the big
picture. Mr. Ehrlich has spent several years taking from Peter to pay
Paul, shortchanging transportation and land conservation programs that
deserve to be restored. Worse, much larger costs loom, including
Medicaid's growing burden. And then there's the state's education
deficit - the extra $2 billion or so needed for school construction
that the state hasn't yet financed.

Mr. Ehrlich would clearly like to rescind his 55 percent state property
tax rate increase. We would too. But it's not prudent to cut taxes
until there's a viable plan to solve Maryland's long-term structural
deficit. This governor has earned a reputation for bringing Capitol
Hill-style politics to Annapolis. The state doesn't need Washington's
irresponsible budgeting practices, too.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-09-20 19:12:30 UTC
Politics fills space around judicial vacancy

by David Nitkin, Baltimore Sun Staff

August 28, 2005

Criminal cases are piling up in Allegany County, where a political
standoff has left the District Court operating with one full-time judge
since late last year.

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who selects judges, was given the names of
three candidates for the county's judicial vacancy by a nominating
panel in December. But nine months later, he has yet to interview any
of the finalists. As a result, Allegany County now has the
longest-standing judicial vacancy in the state.

Some Republican leaders and court officials in Western Maryland say the
holdup isn't because of who was nominated but who was not. The list
does not include the name of Kevin Kelly, a Democratic state delegate
from Allegany County and a longtime Ehrlich friend. Kelly applied for
the position, but his candidacy was rejected by the panel.

"The governor and Kevin are very good friends, and the governor wanted
Kevin Kelly," said Raymond Walker, a Republican who retired four years
ago after serving more than four decades as elected clerk and in other
posts in Allegany County Circuit Court.

John N. Bambacus, a former Republican state senator who teaches
political science at Frostburg State University, called the District
Court situation "a circus."

"It seems to me this appointment has languished far too long, and there
is some question as to whether justice is being served," Bambacus said.

Through a spokesman, Ehrlich affirmed his admiration of Kelly but did
not address whether he was working to place his friend and former
General Assembly colleague on the bench.

"Governor Ehrlich considers Delegate Kelly a close friend and a
committed public servant," said Henry Fawell, a spokesman for the
governor. "The governor also has a great respect for the judicial
nominating process. There is no deadline for the governor to make an
appointment. He continues to give thoughtful consideration to this

The episode provides a glimpse into the often-hidden world of judicial
politics. On one side is a local power structure that has coalesced
around a favored candidate. On the other is a first-term governor who
does not back away from fights and rarely demonstrates a taste for
compromising or deal-making.

Stuck in the middle are the users of the court system in Allegany
County. The criminal docket is being scheduled into January, when
normally cases would be heard in November, court officials say.

"The governor's first responsibility is to serve justice, not his
friends," said Del. Kumar P. Barve, the House majority leader from
Montgomery County. "He needs to appoint someone qualified very quickly.
If he's delaying appointing somebody because he wants Kevin to be a
judge, that's wrong. I can't think of any other reason why he hasn't
appointed somebody by now."

As lawmakers in their 20s new to Annapolis in the 1980s, Ehrlich and
Kelly became friends, even though they are from different political
parties and opposite sides of the state. The outgoing, single lawyers
sat a few seats apart on the House of Delegates Judiciary Committee,
sharing a right-of-center worldview and an appetite for late-night
policy chats followed by burgers at greasy haunts.

Since then, Ehrlich's political career has soared while Kelly's has
remained static. Voters turned him out of office after two terms, and
then he reclaimed his Assembly seat in 1998.

Last year, a vacancy opened up on the bench when one of the two
District Court judges in Allegany County retired. Kelly put his name in
for the job, as did four others.

"The governor knows I would very much like to be a District Court
judge. That's as far as I am going to comment," Kelly said in an
interview last week. "Bob Ehrlich and I are close friends. We know each
other's capabilities."

District Court judges earn $114,502 yearly. As a delegate, Kelly earns

But when the judicial nominating panel that Ehrlich appointed forwarded
its list of three names to the governor, Kelly's was not among them.
Instead, the panel recommended two other Democrats and Gregory H.
Getty, a lawyer who is the son of a retired Court of Special Appeals
judge and a member of a prominent Republican family.

"It would appear that Governor Ehrlich has lost control of the judicial
nominating commission," said Bambacus, the Frostburg professor.

Critics of Kelly said they weren't surprised he wasn't on the list.

"The general consensus is that Kevin is not qualified," said Walker,
the longtime court clerk.

State Sen. Sharon M. Grosfeld, a Montgomery County Democrat who served
with Kelly on the House Judiciary Committee for several years, offered
sharper criticism.

"I don't think he ever approached issues of women or domestic violence
objectively," Grosfeld said. "I would have very grave concerns with
Del. Kevin Kelly serving on the District or Circuit Court bench because
of his attitude I have seen in relation to women's issues,
domestic-violence issues and family-law issues. He would be dealing
with protective orders. I would be extremely worried about his ability
to be fair to victims."

The members of the nominating commission who reviewed Kelly's
application won't discuss their recommendations. Their records are not
public, nor are those of several bar panels that also judged his
candidacy and forwarded their findings to the commission.

"The vote that the bar takes is a confidential vote for the governor's
eyes only," said Paul C. Sullivan, an attorney and president of the
Allegany County Bar Association.

Kelly said questions about his temperament, which some critics said
could border on sophomoric, are "absolute nonsense." And he said his 25
years of legal experience would make him a good judge.

"Kevin Kelly can be a fun-loving person, but when he needs to be, he is
as serious as a heart attack," Kelly said.

Even though he is a Democrat, the delegate's candidacy has drawn
support from some unlikely quarters. "I think Kevin Kelly would make a
great judge in Allegany County," said John M. Kane, chairman of the
Maryland Republican Party and an Ehrlich ally.

If Kelly became a judge, it would remove a veteran lawmaker from the
Assembly and create an opportunity that could help the GOP reach its
goal of picking up 14 seats in the 2006 election. Republicans want to
increase their numbers to make it more difficult for Democrats to
override Ehrlich vetoes. Kelly's seat is a prime target.

"We feel that that district is a very fertile district for Republicans,
and I think we'd have a good chance at picking up a seat, whether Kevin
Kelly is a judge or not," Kane said.

Local Republicans feel the judgeship should not go to a Democrat. Since
the District Court system was created in 1970, there has never been a
Republican judge in Allegany, and GOP leaders appear to want to make

"That was from the beginning, the phone calls being made in favor of
Getty," said Walker, the retired clerk. Jervis S. Finney, counsel to
the governor, said former Republican U.S. Sen. J. Glenn Beall and
others have written to him on behalf of Getty.

Getty is the son of James S. Getty, 84, who is retired from the Court
of Special Appeals but continues to hear cases. The elder Getty said he
has made no untoward efforts to support his son's candidacy.

"I haven't done anything," James Getty said, adding that he would like
to see his son on the bench.

"Certainly. I think he's eminently qualified, and he's interested in
doing it," Getty said.

Ehrlich has named many delegates to executive branch positions, and is
particularly fond of his old colleagues from the Judiciary Committee.
Kenneth C. Montague Jr., a Baltimore Democrat, runs the juvenile
Services Department. Kenneth H. Masters, also a Democrat, became his
legislative lobbyist.

But Kelly says that other than a judgeship - or remaining as a delegate
- there is nothing else he wants.

"I'm going to sit back and see what happens," he said. "There is no
other position in state government that has any interest for me."

Sun staff writer Jennifer Skalka contributed to this article.
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-09-24 11:53:27 UTC
Ehrlich lists 18 golf tournaments, but not partners

by David Nitkin (Baltimore Sun Staff)

September 3, 2005

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has released records showing he played in 18
charity golf tournaments since 2003, but he will not disclose his
partners in those matches or the dates and partners for numerous other
private games, according to the governor's office.

"Private outings with friends are just that -- private -- and will
remain so," said the governor's communications director, Paul E.
Schurick, in a letter to the campaign finance watchdog group Common
Cause Maryland.

The letter was dated Aug. 28 and was released by the group yesterday.

Common Cause had asked Ehrlich, a Republican, to provide a list of golf
partners after misdemeanor ethics charges were filed last month against
Ohio Gov. Bob Taft.

Taft, also a Republican, pleaded no contest and was convicted of
charges that he failed to disclose accepting greens fees as gifts.

Common Cause Maryland Executive Director James Browning said the public
has a right to know whom Ehrlich, an avid golfer, is spending time with
during games. Golf matches can last four hours or more and offer a
chance for private conversations and camaraderie, the group points out.

"This is a golden opportunity for his donors, for lobbyists and others
to get quality time with him, in private -- no record of the meeting,"
Browning said. "We don't know who is out there with him, and until we
do, the question is going to hang in the air: Is the golf course a
substitute for his office?"

Schurick denied in the letter that such access exists.

"The governor is competitive on the golf course, continually working on
his game, but still enjoying the friendship of his playing partners,"
Schurick wrote.

"Further, unlike some golfers, the governor does not use a round of
golf to 'network,' 'conduct business' or 'as an office in the rough,'"
he wrote.

Ehrlich's fondness for golf has been the focus of media attention.

After taking office, he became the first Maryland governor in years to
take advantage of a membership extended to the state's chief executive
at the pricey Caves Valley Golf Club in Baltimore County, where
memberships cost up to $125,000.

The state ethics commission ruled Ehrlich could use the membership
because it is offered to anyone who holds the office, not to him

Radio and television host and Washington Post sport columnist Tony
Kornheiser has talked on the air about playing with Ehrlich and
University of Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams. Ehrlich is a
skilled and methodical player, Kornheiser said.

Ehrlich's office says the governor pays for golf games with personal
funds, so does not need to report them as gifts on annual financial
disclosure forms on record with the State Ethics Commission.

The governor's office has not provided receipts or other documentation
showing that Ehrlich has paid for golf.

The list of charity tournaments released this week showed that Ehrlich
played in seven events in 2003, seven in 2004 and four this year.

This year's tournaments included the McDonald's LPGA Championship
Pro-Am at Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace on June 7, followed
the next day by the PGA Booz Allen Classic Pro-Am at Congressional
Country Club in Montgomery County.

He has played at the Frederick Hospice Golf Tournament at the Holly
Hills Country Club for three consecutive years. Schurick said he was
disclosing those because the governor was acting "as an honorary host
representing the state."

Josh White, political director for the Maryland Democratic Party, said
the charity tournaments are just a fraction of Ehrlich's golf time. He
called on the governor to provide a full accounting of his play.

"The governor's business is the state's business," White said. "The
governor must think the people of Maryland are naive to think that this
many rounds of golf are not subject to question... It's a lot of time
away from the office. What does Ehrlich have to hide?"

Audra Miller, a spokeswoman for the Republican Party of Maryland,
called the criticism "ridiculous games being played by the Democrats."
Ehrlich has no more need to disclose his private affairs than do the
General Assembly's officers, she said.

"Tell me who Speaker [Michael E.] Busch goes to basketball games with,
or who Senate President [Thomas V. Mike] Miller has dinner with," she
SLOB Ehrlich & Martin O'MORON can suckle my middle leg!
2005-10-20 19:28:12 UTC
Subject: Did Maryland Governor SLOB Ehrlich help CRAFT a BOGUS
PLOT in an attempt to GRANDSTAND and look like Rudy Giuliani?

Queries rise on tunnel tipster

FBI can't confirm account; Associates say Egyptian lied

by Matthew Dolan, Baltimore Sun

October 20, 2005

Law enforcement officials and members of the local Egyptian community
are raising new questions about an informant who prompted Maryland
officials to close two Baltimore harbor tunnels and a major interstate,
fearing a suspected terrorist attack.

A day after the tunnel closures, the FBI has been unable to corroborate
the account of the informant - an Egyptian who once lived in the
Baltimore area and is now being held in the Netherlands on immigration

No criminal charges have been filed in the alleged plot to blow up one
of Baltimore's harbor tunnels, the FBI confirmed yesterday.

"I think there is doubt, because nothing happened and nothing else has
been developed to corroborate the account," said a federal law
enforcement official familiar with the investigation.

The informant's motives remain murky. But in interviews yesterday,
associates of the four men detained in the case said they believe they
know the identity of the informant and that he had lied because his
friends failed to get him back into the United States.

His information, which included names of people living and working in
Baltimore, helped persuade Maryland Transportation Authority Police to
close Interstate 95 Tuesday at the Fort McHenry Tunnel and Interstate
895 at the Harbor Tunnel. Authorities tied up traffic for hours as they
searched cars and trucks for explosives while FBI and immigration
agents scoured the region for the men named by the informant.

The tipster alleged that at least six Egyptians living in the Baltimore
area were plotting to drive a bomb-laden vehicle into one of the
tunnels and detonate the explosives. The explosives were to have been
smuggled into port aboard a ship, according to the informant. Agents
searched a Southeast Baltimore market and at least three pizza
restaurants and detained four Middle Eastern men on immigration

Suied Mohamad-Ahamad, 25, and Mohamed Ahmed Mohamady Ismail, 30, both
Egyptians, were taken into custody at Safa's Pizza on Merritt Avenue in

A third man, Ahmad al Momani, 58, from Jordan, was picked up at Koko
Market, a Middle Eastern business in Highlandtown.

Mohamed Mohamed Abdel Hamed, 29, also Egyptian, was arrested in the
2900 block of Sollers Point Road in Dundalk.

The owner of the Koko Market was arrested on a gun charge, court
records show. Maged M. Hussein, 41, was charged with violating a
protective order by failing to surrender a revolver. The protective
order had been obtained by his estranged wife last month in Baltimore

'A good man' Kamal Zughbar, 63, who lives in a basement apartment on
Rappolla Street in the Greektown neighborhood, described al Momani as a
friend and fellow Jordanian immigrant whom he has known for about five

"He's a good man," Zughbar said. "That's what I know."

Abdel Hamed's and Mohamad-Ahamad's landlord said the men told her they
are cousins when they rented the basement of her brick rowhouse on
Sollers Point Road about eight months ago.

Eileen Katherine said she was shocked when FBI agents took Abdel Hamed
away in handcuffs Tuesday.

"We had no idea," she said, referring to their alleged illegal
immigration status.

Abdel Hamed was divorced from a woman in Egypt and had a 4-year-old
daughter, Katherine said. She said both men sent money to their
families in Egypt.

She said friends at Didi's Pizzeria Restaurant and Carryout, where she
said the men worked, came to get their belongings from the apartment

'Ulterior motives' Ahmed Barbour, manager of Didi's Pizzeria in
Dundalk, said he believes the informant is a man who used to work for
him at the restaurant. He said the man, about 25 or 26 years old, came
to the United States with a group of fellow Egyptians several years ago
and was deported last year on immigration violations.

Federal sources interviewed for this article said they could not
confirm that. But one law enforcement source did say that the informant
was an Egyptian and had lived in Baltimore in recent years. The source
said the informant had a "questionable" performance on a polygraph.

Since being deported, the man has tried furiously to get back into the
United States, said Barbour, sitting behind a cluttered desk in a smoky
office in the back of his pizzeria, a carry-out located behind a
7-Eleven on Holaview Road in Dundalk.

"He tried calling people here" to have money sent to him, Barbour said.
The people he was calling were the same ones he came to this country
with, Barbour said. "He gets very sad."

Carol Barbour, an employee at Didi's, confirmed her husband's account,
saying the informant had "ulterior motives" for tipping off the FBI to
a bomb threat that she believes never was.

"Does he understand what he's done?" she asked.

The four men detained Tuesday remain in federal custody on prior
deportation orders. One was named by the informant as a conspirator in
the alleged tunnel plot, according to a law enforcement official
familiar with the investigation.

Federal officials discounted an ABC report that the informant might
have lied because he had become involved romantically with a girlfriend
of one of the men he falsely described as a terrorist.

The right call? The decision to close the Baltimore harbor tunnels,
which received national attention, drew little public criticism in
Maryland yesterday.

After initially questioning the decision by state officials to close
the tunnels Tuesday without warning, Mayor Martin O'Malley toned down
his statements and suggested yesterday that there had been no major
breakdown in communications between state and local officials.

"The fact that we can always improve shouldn't make you feel like there
was another breakdown. There wasn't," O'Malley said at his weekly news
conference. "The one little glitch we had was the lead time to
accommodate the traffic. So, I think the rest of it went very well."

Maryland Transportation Authority Police Chief Gary McLhinney
acknowledged that the decision to close the tunnels was made, ordered
and executed within a few minutes, but repeated that the scenario had
been under consideration for days.

McLhinney said the order to close the highways had to be made just
seconds after the final decision because of the proximity of the
suspects to the tunnels. Officials were concerned that the suspects
could hear of the operation and move to "harm the tunnels."

During a radio call-in show, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said that the
decision to close the tunnels was "not a close call."

"Obviously you have to move, but the generic question is what do we
do?" the governor said on WBAL. "We have these opposing forces in our
society. You have prosperous free country, freedom of movement,
obviously free of activity against a war, and it's a very
non-traditional war. It's a terror war."

The director of the Maryland Office of Homeland Security, Dennis R.
Schrader, said the state will produce an "after-action" report on the
shutdown of the tunnels and that McLhinney's agency will head up the
effort with the support of the state's emergency management division.

The Maryland office of the Council on American-Islamic Affairs issued a
statement yesterday saying said that reasonable precautions should be
taken when there is a confirmed threat. But Shama Farooq, director of
civil rights for the group, urged authorities to use restraint.

"We are concerned when members of a group that is already heavily
profiled are targeted once again for an investigation or arrest that is
based on uncorroborated information from an informant abroad," he said.

Egyptians living in Maryland are dispersed throughout the state, said
Dr. Bash Faroan, president of the Baltimore County Muslim Council. In
the 2000 Census, about 3,200 Maryland residents identified themselves
as being of Egyptian ancestry.

Terrorism experts said yesterday that state officials made the right
call in closing the tunnels in light of the information they had, but
suggested that the federal government should offer more detailed

"This is exactly the kind of thing that the director of national
intelligence and the National Counterterrorism Center are supposed to
be involved in," said Michael Greenberger, director of the University
of Maryland Center for Health and Homeland Security in Baltimore. "The
very purpose of the center is to bring all intelligence analysis to one
place and to advise consumers of that intelligence on how to respond to

Greenberger said the lesson learned from the Baltimore bomb scare and a
similar threat in New York earlier this month is that "if we are going
to have an effective federal intelligence network, it really has to be
there to provide some solid analysis."

Without such expertise, cities across the nation could be crippled by
similar threats at airports, bridges and seaports, he said.

"Everyone is left to their own best judgment," Greenberger said.

***@baltsun.com Sun reporters Josh Mitchell, Lynn Anderson,
John Fritze, Laura Barnhardt, Liz F. Kay, Siobhan Gorman and Nicole
Fuller contributed to this article.