Howard County Executive Charles I. Ecker said yesterday that he has completed his housecleaning by dismissing the county's computer operations chief, one of nine top appointees the Republican executive has fired.
"My team is pretty much in place," said Mr. Ecker, who has undergone a rocky seven months in office that included the layoffs of 40 employees, freezing salaries and cutting budgets. He has filled all but two of the top positions.
Jack P. Richards, the ousted information systems services director, said yesterday that Mr. Ecker called him into his office Tuesday and fired him, because he wanted a change in leadership and because the two did not have "good chemistry."
"He gave me one month of severance pay and shooed me out the door," said the 58-year-old Mr. Richards. "I can't figure it out. I am in a state of shock. I have never seen such a ruthless man in all my life."
Former Executive Elizabeth Bobo hired Mr. Richards three years ago to straighten out a computer department that had committed suchgaffes as buying an expensive payroll and personnel software system only to find the county lacking the computer capacity to handle it.
The system purchased in 1986 for $125,000 is now expected to be operational in late July, and a new computer-aided dispatch system for the police and fire departments also will go into service later this summer.
Mr. Ecker said he believes that Mr. Richards "has a lot of excellent qualities. I just thought we needed a change in leadership. I was concerned about getting things implemented."
Deputy County Administrator Cecil Bray said: "Jack inherited a tough situation when he came aboard in July 1987, but he has taken the county computer operations out of the horse-and-buggy age into modern times."
In changing the face of the county administration, Mr. Ecker has replaced the county administrator, personnel administrator, police chief, the two executive assistants and the planning director. Now he has openings for the computer operations director and housing and community development administrator.