Wilzack drew salary after resigning

April 16, 1991|By Eileen Canzian

Though she resigned in February amid legislative furor over a scandal in her department, former state Health Secretary Adele A. Wilzack continued to draw her $2,000-a-week government paycheck for another two months while she cleaned out her office and briefed her successor, health officials have confirmed.

Acting Secretary Nelson J. Sabatini said Ms. Wilzack stopped running the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene when she announced her resignation Feb. 4 under pressure from legislators upset by financial improprieties in the department's Maryland State Games program.

But Ms. Wilzack continued to go to her office and receive her salary until April 5 so that she could help to "facilitate an orderly transition," Mr. Sabatini said.

"She was coming in and just cleaning things up and sort of transitioning out," he said. "She had been secretary for eight years, so there were a lot of issues and a lot of things that she had to wrap up. . . . She was pulling together materials for me. She was extremely helpful."

Ms. Wilzack finished that work April 5 and stopped drawing her $105,000 annual salary on that date, Mr. Sabatini said. He said she would receive an additional payment as compensation for unused vacation time, but he refused to say how much that would be.

Mr. Sabatini, Ms. Wilzack and a spokesman for Gov. William Donald Schaefer all defended her employment during a transitional period as necessary to the operation of a massive state agency with a budget of $2 billion. But Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Prince George's, reacted angrily when informed that Ms. Wilzack had remained a state employee after announcing her resignation.

"Under other circumstances, you can have transition. But when you have a person whose position was terminated because of a violation of the public trust, then there is no transition period," Mr. Miller said. He called the arrangement "fraudulent."

Ms. Wilzack's resignation in February followed almost two months of revelations about financial improprieties, cronyism and other problems in the State Games program. The program was supposed to promote amateur athletics in Maryland, ostensibly as a means of dissuading young people from using drugs. But legislative auditors found that James E. Narron, the now-dismissed State Games director, was instead using government money to rent Ocean

City condominiums, write checks to himself and set up a fencing academy that immediately hired his wife.

Ms. Wilzack has said she didn't know about abuses in the program, which remains the subject of criminal investigations by the state attorney general's office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

She said yesterday that when she submitted her resignation, she told Governor Schaefer she would need to continue to work for a while, and he agreed. "I am the one who put together that $2 billion budget. I needed to [brief] Nelson on all of the issues that had gone into it," Ms. Wilzack said.

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