Anne MacKinnon, executive director of the Maryland Democratic Party for less than a year, will leave her post just as this election year begins to take a newly created, $67,000-a-year job in the state Department of General Services.
Her departure comes on the heels of testimony before a legislative committee this month that put her sharply at odds with Gov. Parris N. Glendening, legislative leaders and the party chairman, Peter Krauser.
But Glendening and Krauser moved quickly yesterday to say that MacKinnon's departure from the party post had nothing to do with testimony before a committee in which she opposed a bill the governor supports.
"I am very glad that Anne has decided to bring her energy and skills to state government," the governor said through a spokeswoman. "She's a talented person with the strongest commitment to public service."
Krauser called her "a valued member of our team." He said that, while some might conclude that she was leaving because of her public disagreement with the governor, she had interviewed for the state post before the controversial testimony.
MacKinnon, widely respected in Democratic councils, starts her new job March 9, according to Gene Lynch, the DGS secretary.
She could not be reached for comment last night, but Democratic Party sources say she never settled comfortably into a post she took only at the urging of party leaders, including the governor.
Glendening and others were sharply critical of MacKinnon after she appeared Feb. 12 before a legislative committee to speak against a workers' compensation measure that makes more subjective the standard for determining eligibility for workers' compensation when drugs or alcohol are involved. Organized labor fears the change would make it easier to deny benefits to injured workers when alcohol or drugs are involved.
Glendening and House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. favor the bill and Glendening called MacKinnon's testimony "inappropriate and unacceptable." Party Chairman Krauser said she had not been authorized by the party to speak on its behalf.
Usually, party officials testify only on legislation having to do with campaigns and elections.
As a party, Maryland Democrats have been solicitous of organized labor, one of their oldest and most loyal supporting interest groups. Primo Padaletti, secretary treasurer of the Maryland/DC AFL-CIO, said if MacKinnon's testimony had anything to do with her departure from the party post, "It's a damn shame."
But a second party official said she doubts that the former director's comments forced her out. "I would be upset if that one little thing caused her to be canned," said Mary Jo Neville, a party vice chairman. "It's just coincidence, I'm sure."
Democratic leaders joined the GOP and the Chamber of Commerce in opposing organized labor this time, apparently to head off any suggestion that they were willing to go easy on the use of drugs and alcohol in the work place.
Republicans were pleased yesterday to see weakness in their opponent's camp.
"This is too good," said Joyce Lyons Terhes, the GOP state chairman. "They're giving me an issue a day. It's a party in disarray."
The governor, according to a spokeswoman, was aware that MacKinnon would be filling the new job, which he and the Board of Public Works approved last week, according to Lynch.
Pub Date: 2/25/98