Layoffs stun those close to Hayden, too

February 12, 1993|By Robert A. Erlandson | Robert A. Erlandson,Staff Writer

Karen Jones was angry and tearful; Carol Hirschburg was stunned; and Nancy Hastings was resigned as the layoff ax cut their Baltimore County government jobs yesterday.

The layoffs, which hit 392 employees and eliminated 566 positions, were announced by County Executive Roger B. Hayden and included his personal secretary's husband, who had saved the county millions of dollars.

Ultimately, this massive government re-organization, the largest in county history, signals a return to basic government, without the frills of convenience added on regularly during the boom years of county expansion.

"Basic government, that's the name of the game. It's what we had before," said Public Works Director Gene L. Neff, who personally delivered the bad news to those in his sprawling department.

"The wood just isn't there to keep the fire going," he said, referring to the county's gloomy budget outlook.

Tension and gloom prevailed in county offices yesterday as employees first awaited the 1 p.m. official announcement, then gathered in small groups to talk about how hard departments had been hit. In the front window of the County Office Building, a hand-printed sign read: "450 People Will Work for Food."

The final picture of which county employees will lose their jobs won't be clear for some time, various employees said, because of bumping rights and employee transfers between departments. However, many employees knew they were suddenly unemployed.

Colleagues tried to comfort Ms. Jones, a county employee for 22 years, as she cried and cleaned out her desk.

"I've been told I am terminated and that I have no bumping rights," said the right-of-way agent in the Land Acquisition Division, which was abolished, its functions transferred to the Office of Law.

Ms. Jones blamed her dismissal on her union activism in the Baltimore County and Maryland Classified Employees Associations.

Ms. Hastings, a secretary in the Office of Communications, said, "I expected it. I felt it was coming after I heard on the radio coming in today that Chuck [Jackson, Mr. Hayden's press secretary] had been fired yesterday."

Ms. Hastings, a long-time civic activist in the Kingsville area and a Hayden campaign volunteer, was hired soon after the administration took office in December 1990. Mr. Hayden delivered the news personally, she said.

Ms. Hirschburg, a long-time GOP activist Mr. Hayden hired away from U.S. Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md., was among the first people hired by the Hayden administration. Last year, she switched from being his press secretary to being an executive assistant.

She said Mr. Hayden summoned her just after his 1 o'clock press conference and told her she was history.

"He said this was the hardest thing he had to do," she said. "The only explanation was that at my salary level ($60,000) it made sense to cut me. I was rather taken by surprise."

The county executive's ax also claimed the husband of his personal secretary. Last year, Tom Robinson, administrator of the county's vehicle fleet, saved the county $13.5 million with his proposal to extend vehicle mileage. Yesterday, he was speechless, then bitter, when he was called in at 2:30 p.m. and told to clean out his desk and turn in his car keys, immediately.

"I thought that doing a good job and saving the county so much money would count. I see now that it doesn't," he said.

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