Glendening lays off seven staff members

September 15, 1995|By Marina Sarris and John W. Frece | Marina Sarris and John W. Frece,Sun Staff Writers

Faced with federal cutbacks and the demand for smaller government, Gov. Parris N. Glendening yesterday laid off seven members of his own staff, the first wave of cuts that could claim the jobs of up to 1,000 state workers a year in each of the next few years.

Although many of the targeted jobs may be vacant, "you can't reduce 800 to 1,000 positions without having many layoffs of state workers," said Major F. Riddick Jr., the governor's chief of staff.

Even as members of his State House staff were being given pink slips yesterday, the governor announced that he has hired an $82,712-a-year communications director to improve his image with the public. He said Natalie Wymer will coordinate his "long-term, proactive public relations management."

Mr. Riddick described this week's layoffs as the "first wave" of what is to come as the state grapples with severe federal cutbacks. "We've got a lot of pain that is on its way from the federal cuts that are coming," he said.

Mr. Riddick said he did not know how many of the 800 to 1,000 jobs a year would be lost through layoffs and how many would be lost through attrition. The state now employs more than 70,000 people.

"It's tough when you have to let people go. This is not something that's easy," he said.

But administration officials say the state has no choice given the prospect of losing an estimated $2.4 billion in federal aid over the next seven years.

"We're in an environment where the citizens expect government to operate very efficiently, to be lean and streamlined, and we are sort of looking to see how we can do that as best we can, as early as we can," he said.

Mr. Riddick defended the hiring of Ms. Wymer, who since August 1993 has been a special assistant in the public affairs office of U.S. Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich. He said crucial jobs will continue to be filled in state government even as other positions are being cut.

"We didn't turn around and back off and say, 'OK, now we don't want to bring on a quarterback because we just had to let a tight end go,' " he said.

The governor's staff lost seven professional and clerical jobs, some of them involved in "information technology," said Mr. Riddick, who declined to release their names or job titles.

Sources said most, if not all, of the seven were holdovers from the administration of former Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

The governor's staff layoffs will save more than $200,000, Mr. Riddick said, although he hopes that the seven workers will be considered for other state jobs.

In addition, the Maryland Department of Environment notified 25 workers that they would be out of a job this week, Mr. Riddick said.

J. Charles Fox, assistant environment secretary, said 17 contractual workers got the bad news Tuesday. Unlike permanent employees, contractual workers do not receive full benefits and are not protected by state civil service rules.

BTC "We ended up making those decisions based on declines in federal funds in the current fiscal year and in part because we are anticipating further federal cuts," Mr. Fox said.

In response to a question, Mr. Riddick said the budget problems that prompted the layoffs had no connection with such expenditures as the more than $150,000 the governor used recently to renovate his Annapolis and Baltimore offices.

He said that state employees whose morale may have been affected by seeing co-workers laid off should not have to "operate in a dungeon so the public . . . feels better about the situation."

Ms. Wymer, the new communications director, will report directly to the governor and will oversee the duties of press secretary Dianna D. Rosborough, who since January has handled questions the administration receives from the news media.

"It's about his agenda and making sure it is effectively communicated," Ms. Rosborough said. "There are significant upcoming initiatives involving our legislative package, and the impact federal [budget] cuts are going to have on the state. Those are two examples where an effective education and communication program are critical."

Before joining the Labor Department, Ms. Wymer was an executive assistant to the attorney general of Ohio and, before that, a member of the national press advance team for the Clinton-Gore campaign.

She fills a job that has been vacant since March, when longtime Glendening aide Tim Ayers was shifted from the communications director job to state marketing director.

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