Cabinet member Griffin fired

Natural resources secretary served Glendening since 1995

July 10, 1999|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,SUN STAFF

To the dismay of a state environmental leaders, Gov. Parris N. Glendening fired state natural resources Secretary John R. Griffin yesterday.

A spokesman for the governor said only that Glendening was looking to "refocus" the department.

"He wanted to energize the department and refocus it on Smart Growth, land conservation and green infrastructure preservation," said Michael Morrill, Glendening's spokesman.

Griffin's firing drew a negative response from William C. Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

"I'm shocked, saddened and very disappointed," Baker said.

Baker noted that the foundation, the leading environmental advocacy group in the state, named Griffin Maryland's "conservationist of the year" in 1998.

"That speaks volumes as to how we feel about his leadership," Baker said.

Griffin, 53, has served as secretary of natural resources since Glendening took office in 1995. For more than 10 years before that, Griffin was deputy secretary during the administrations of governors Harry R. Hughes and

William Donald Schaefer.

In a statement, Glendening praised Griffin's "exemplary public service."

Sources familiar with their relationship said the two men shared a philosophical approach to the environment, but that Griffin was too often out of step with his boss, sparking repeated clashes over the past 4 1/2 years.

Concerned that such tension would lead to Griffin's dismissal, environmentalists undertook a seemingly successful campaign last year to keep him in the job.

Griffin declined yesterday to speculate on reasons for his dismissal, but said the firing caught him by surprise.

"When you take these jobs, you realize they're not for life," Griffin said. "You realize your boss has the prerogative to make changes, and I certainly respect that."

As an aide to Hughes, Griffin helped launch the state's landmark effort to clean up the Chesapeake.

As secretary under Glendening, Griffin helped develop the state's Rural Legacy program to preserve farmland and other open space, and has focused attention on the threats to the state's crab population.

Glendening is elevating Assistant Secretary Sarah J. Taylor-Rogers to secretary of the Department of Natural Resources.

Taylor-Rogers has been involved in the state's efforts to protect the Chesapeake for years. She has held a number of positions, including executive director of the Critical Areas Commission, which oversees development in a buffer zone around state waters.

"Dr. Taylor-Rogers has an exceptional record of preserving Maryland's natural resources," Glendening said.

She will run a department with 1,600 employees and a budget of more than $200 million. The department manages 365,000 acres of public lands.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a leading legislator on environmental issues, said the change of leadership at the department would likely have little effect on state policy.

"This doesn't look like it has an ideological tinge to it," said Frosh, a Montgomery Democrat. "I think both Griffin and Dr. Rogers are cut from the same mold, in a way. They both have a deep appreciation for the importance of the Chesapeake Bay."

Pub Date: 7/10/99

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