For most of her tenure, Adele Wilzack earned high marks as secretary of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. But however skilled she was at the job of overseeing state health programs, Wilzack bears ultimate responsibility for a Maryland State Games program that went badly wrong. Her resignation Monday deprives state government of a gifted administrator. But it also underscores an important point -- that as the person in charge, she is accountable for the actions of her subordinates. Such accountability is crucial to good government.
Wilzack's departure leaves this huge state bureaucracy in a particularly vulnerable condition. Of three deputy secretary positions, only one is currently filled. But in some ways the change in leadership comes at a good time. The Schaefer administration has announced plans to create a new department that would combine functions now split between the health department and the Department of Human Resources. The change would make both departments more manageable and can be made largely by shifting existing personnel. Wilzack's departure presents the governor and legislature with an opportunity to implement these changes swiftly, and to further scrutinize the department's structure.