Lame Ducks at Harvard

June 29, 1994

There's nothing like saying "thank you" to a few loyal state government aides by sending them off to Harvard for three weeks -- at taxpayer expense. That's exactly what Gov. William Donald Schaefer is doing this summer in an arrogant display of lame-duckism at its worst.

With six months to go till the end of the Schaefer administration, the governor is handing the state comptroller the bill -- roughly $45,000 -- for a bunch of lame-duck Cabinet secretaries and other political appointees to attend a program for senior executives in state and local government at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government. Whatever expertise and new knowledge they gain won't be of much good to state taxpayers, though: Most, if not all, of them will be out of their jobs come January.

This is taking "career development" to ludicrous extremes. The state is actually helping these officials sharpen their resumes in their quest for new positions elsewhere once Mr. Schaefer packs his bags and leaves the Governor's Mansion. And in one case, even the career-development argument doesn't apply.

Charles L. Benton is 78 years old. He is the governor's loyal budget secretary who has been at his side for well over 20 years. He knows just about everything there is to know about budgets and fiscal legerdemain. Exactly what benefit will accrue to taxpayers from Mr. Benton's stint at Harvard? We're all for continuing education for adults of all ages, but couldn't Mr. Benton have picked up the tab himself instead of getting a free ride on the backs of taxpayers?

No wonder the current crop of gubernatorial candidates -- Democrats and Republicans -- has been so critical of some of Mr. Schaefer's ostentatious actions as governor. When he lavishes these kinds of perks on his loyal aides, it leaves a bad aftertaste. The solid and substantial achievements of the Schaefer administration are obscured by such unwise gestures. In the coming months, Mr. Schaefer ought to take care not to cast any more clouds over his eight-year record in Annapolis.

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