Shame on Schaefer

January 24, 1995

Outgoing Gov. William Donald Schaefer stained his splendid record in Annapolis by making a slew of eleventh-hour patronage appointments to help out staff members and friends. It was a shameful misuse of his powers and lent a whiff of cronyism to Mr. Schaefer's last weeks in office.

He took a junior-level press aide and gave him an important $62,000 job for which he does not qualify: deciding which criminals in prison are freed on parole.

He took a longtime aide and gave him a $25,000 part-time job deciding property-tax appeals -- a post for which he has no expertise.

He took a loyal cabinet secretary and gave her a $69,000 job reviewing contract appeals -- though she has slim background in the arcane and complex world of procurement law.

And he let his own appointments secretary put himself on two commissions, one of which makes him eligible for state health benefits.

Longtime friends and political cheerleaders were rewarded with appointments to boards and commissions. Defeated legislators friendly to Mr. Schaefer got commission appointments, too. The Senate president, Thomas V. Mike Miller, rightly called it "an unseemly ploy."

Schaefer aides and old-line politicos defended the ex-governor's appointments, claiming that last-minute patronage picks are traditional. But does that make them right?

Of course not. It was this kind of perverse political rewards that voters rejected so strongly in November and in September. They don't want politics as usual, and they surely don't want governors taking advantage of their powers in the waning hours to boost the prominence of friends.

Gov. Parris N. Glendening has been muted in his response to the Schaefer patronage grab, saying each appointment will be reviewed individually. But voters expect more of him. They expect a strong statement against politics as usual. Mr. Glendening should immediately withdraw all of the Schaefer appointments requiring Senate confirmation and then resubmit only the ones he thinks are legitimate.

Mr. Schaefer's political manipulation gives government a bad reputation. It sours people on the State House scene. Mr. Glendening must establish a high ethical tone in his early days. This sort of skulduggery is no longer acceptable. The new governor is the one who must set a high standard for others in state government to follow.

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