Three key staffers of the Baltimore County Economic Development Commission were summarily fired late Monday by the new director, Kenneth C. Nohe.
Anthony J. Haley, deputy director of the commission; Patricia Krug, office manager; and Patrick L. McDonough, a commission staffer who managed County Executive Roger B. Hayden's 1990 campaign, all said they were read a short statement about their "philosophical differences" with the boss, who was accompanied one of Mr. Hayden's police bodyguards. Then they were told to leave.
Neither Mr. Nohe nor Mr. Hayden would comment on the firings, saying they are "personnel matters." However, the executive said that in general, the commission "is doing exactly what we want it to do."
The commission's mandate is to attract new businesses to Baltimore County and to support businesses already there.
Mr. McDonough, who worked as a staff aide to Mr. Hayden after the election then moved to a $47,000-a-year job with the commission, said the firings were the result of conflicts over Mr. Nohe's focus on a long-range economic development study and on developing major land parcels in the county at the expense of services to existing county businesses.
Mr. Nohe denied that he was abandoning existing businesses but agreed that he had asked for fewer "cold-calls," or uninvited solicitations of help, to local businesses.
Mr. McDonough and another source said Mr. Nohe, who owns the White Marsh Dinner Theater, regularly "terrorized" commission staffers with threats of firing and privately bragged of his proclivity for firing workers in private business.
Mr. Nohe, 49, whom Mr. Hayden appointed to the $70,304-a-year director's post in November, denied the charge. He said he is known as "Mr. Sunshine" for his upbeat disposition.
Mr. Nohe added that he wanted the commission to do a study outlining economic development goals for the next few years. He said he is concentrating on the White Marsh and Owings Mills growth areas, the University of Maryland Baltimore County's industrial land, keeping the federal Health Care Financing Administration in Woodlawn and developing the new Sparrows Point Industrial Park.
Commission Chairman Samuel A. Cook said he was upset about the firings and considered resigning, but decided to stay at Mr. Hayden's urging. "I think they [Mr. Haley and Mrs. Krug] did an outstanding job," he said, adding that his task now is to unite the commission so it can continue its work.
But Mr. Cook, an attorney with Venable Baetjer and Howard, hedged on whether he will serve out the remaining 10 months of his term as chairman. "I'm just taking it one day at a time," he said.
Mrs. Krug, a 14-year staffer who earned $38,000 a year, said she was the sole support of herself and her handicapped husband. "I'm in shock," she added. And Mr. Haley, a member of the commission staff for eight years who earned $53,000 annually, said he was "still a little baffled" about Mr. Nohe's action.