Child-support chief is fired by Ehrlich

Director had criticized private firm that operates program in Baltimore

January 18, 2003|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

Continuing a purge of Glendening-era officials, the Ehrlich administration has fired Teresa L. Kaiser, the child-support director who challenged the practices of the private company that runs the program in Baltimore.

Kaiser, who headed the child-support office for three years, said yesterday that she was told Wednesday to pack up and leave by noon.

"It was already after noon," she said. "I didn't have a chance to say an orderly goodbye."

A former state child-support director in Idaho and Missouri, Kaiser has been credited with increasing collections each year she worked in Maryland. But she also made powerful enemies with her criticisms of Maximus Inc., the Virginia-based company that holds the contract to administer the child-support program in Baltimore.

Maximus and its chief ally in the General Assembly, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Howard P. Rawlings, wrote letters during the Glendening administration calling for her ouster as head of the Child Support Enforcement Agency, part of the Department of Human Resources.

Then-Secretary Emelda P. Johnson was ready to fire Kaiser last spring after Maximus complained, but Gov. Parris N. Glendening intervened to keep her on the job.

Kaiser had bypassed her supervisors to ask legislators to order an audit of Maximus, saying she had "grave concerns about the integrity" of the firm's work. She said she believed an investigation would find that Maximus had manipulated data "in a manner that suggests wrongdoing."

Her views earned her the wrath of Bruce C. Bereano, the company's lobbyist.

Kaiser said Bereano, a longtime friend and supporter of Ehrlich, approached her a week ago at a political fund-raiser and told her that "your days are numbered."

Henry Fawell, a spokesman for Ehrlich, said he could not discuss the reason for the firing because it was a personnel issue. He said he was not aware of any effort by Bereano to get Kaiser fired.

Bereano did not return a call seeking his comment.

Rawlings, a Baltimore Democrat who wrote a letter in June urging Kaiser's firing, said he had not raised the issue of her continued employment with the Ehrlich administration. But he made clear he was pleased about her ouster.

He noted that legislative auditors concluded her charges against Maximus were "unsubstantiated."

The audit found no evidence to support most of Kaiser's accusations, but did find a problem with the way Maximus distributed money it had collected.

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