Last March, when Baltimore City Council President Mary Pat Clarke needed him most, 6th District Councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi was there.
With council members shouting each other down over redistricting, and with Mrs. Clarke intent on reclaiming power wrested from her by a coalition of veterans four years ago, Mr. DiBlasi stood and pledged his vote to Mrs. Clarke. On the spot, she rewarded him with the chairmanship of the council's important budget committee.
But this week, in an unannounced meeting called by Mrs. Clarke -- held in possible violation of the state's open-meetings law -- she told Mr. DiBlasi his services as chairman will no longer be needed after the new council is sworn in this afternoon. He would be replaced, she told him, by Councilwoman Iris G. Reeves, D-5th.
Mr. DiBlasi cried foul.
"I stayed on the president's side in the power struggle four years ago," he said yesterday. Last spring, when Mrs. Clarke assembled enough votes to reclaim her authority, "I was the key vote for her," Mr. DiBlasi said. "She regained power through my vote. I can't explain the president's actions."
At Monday's meeting on committee assignments, which Mrs. Clarke held in a City Hall conference room after the weekly City Council meeting adjourned, the president said she wanted a change in the budget chairmanship.
The budget books, she reportedly said, were as difficult to read as "Chinese phone books."
"Not to me, they're not," Mr. DiBlasi retorted.
But Mrs. Clarke held firm. By the next day, however, Mr. DiBlasi and Mrs. Reeves proposed they serve as co-chairs, and Mrs. Clarke agreed -- thus preserving some of Mr. DiBlasi's authority.
"This is a peaceful solution," Mr. DiBlasi said. "No one wants to see a repeat performance of what we had four years ago. I'm not happy. I would have preferred to be chair, but I don't want to be selfish about this."
Mrs. Clarke also created a new committee, the committee on health and the environment, to be chaired by Councilman Wilbur E. Cunningham, D-3rd.
As for the unannounced meeting she called, Mrs. Clarke -- who has built a career opposing old-fashioned, back-room politics -- said she does not believe any law was violated. "The doors were open," she said. "I'm a sunshine kid."