Judge denies mayor's request for agency restraining order

December 17, 2003|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore circuit judge handed a temporary legal victory yesterday to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. in his battle against Mayor Martin O'Malley over management of the city's troubled social services agency.

Judge Kaye A. Allison denied O'Malley's request for a temporary restraining order to prevent interim Department of Social Services Director Floyd Blair from making any changes to the 2,400-employee department until the court decides whether Blair's appointment was legal.

In a lawsuit filed Sept. 24, O'Malley contended that Ehrlich's Sept. 3 appointment of Blair, an attorney and former Bush administration official, violated the law because Blair lacks the five years of management experience and city approval required for the position.

Allison said yesterday that her decision to deny the restraining order does not imply that she will rule against O'Malley's lawsuit. But she said the city's argument that an emergency restraining order was necessary to prevent "irreparable harm" to children and families was not substantiated.

"The city's allegation of harm is mere speculation," Allison told about 20 people in the courtroom, including Assistant Attorney General Steven M. Sullivan, who represented the state.

In his three months as interim director, Blair has terminated three veteran assistant directors, promoted a former Republican City Council candidate to deputy director for operations, pledged to hire 50 more caseworkers and announced the installation of a $4 million telephone system.

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