O'Malley's BlackBerry is target of office pool

The Political Game

Wager: Ehrlich and his staff take bets on how long into the State of the State it would take the mayor to go wireless. The winner: about 7 minutes.

February 03, 2004|By David Nitkin | David Nitkin,SUN STAFF

BALTIMORE Mayor Martin O'Malley's fondness for the palm-sized wireless communications device known as a BlackBerry bore fruit for members of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s office last week.

Confident that O'Malley, one of the governor's chief antagonists, couldn't keep his hands off the miniature keyboard during Ehrlich's State of the State address Thursday, the executive office started a $2-per-entry pool. The winner: whoever guessed the number of minutes into the speech before O'Malley plucked his BlackBerry from its holster and began tapping away.

For official measurement, Ehrlich's office dispatched one of its most senior and trusted members to the House of Delegates second-floor gallery, where a seat had been reserved for the O'Mayor. Legal counsel Jervis S. Finney, a former federal prosecutor and partner in the respected law firm Ober/Kaler, used a timer to measure the mayor's movements.

Sure enough, never-nervous Jervis hit the stop button at 7:58 into the address.

That's when O'Malley zapped a message to the city's lobbyist, Deputy Mayor Jeanne Hitchcock, to find out which press aide would be present to assist the mayor with the media scrum that was to follow the speech.

The answer was no one. So he "returned to listening intently to the governor's plans to cut millions of dollars from the city of Baltimore," said O'Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory.

Ehrlich aides said they started the contest to highlight what they called the "disrespect" demonstrated by O'Malley, who also used the device during last year's speech.

"There's a time and a place to check your BlackBerry," said Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver. "It's not an appropriate time, and not an appropriate place."

For the record, Ehrlich came within 2 seconds of winning the $100 pool. The governor had guessed eight minutes, but under the rules of the contest, seconds were rounded down -- not up.

So the 7:58 time made winners of those who guessed seven minutes: Secretary of State R. Karl Aumann and Lori Caldwell Valentine, who works in the governor's legislative office.

They won about $50 each. Drinks are on them.

Glendening makes State House call

While two of Maryland's living ex-governors -- Comptroller William Donald Schaefer and board of regents member Marvin Mandel -- attended the State of the State speech, two others never received invitations. Harry R. Hughes and Parris N. Glendening were left off the list. Oversights, aides to the governor say.

Nonetheless, there was Glendening passing through the State House a couple of hours after Ehrlich's speech ended.

"I'm here for the speech," quipped Glendening. "They told me it started at 4 p.m." In truth, Ehrlich's 31-minute remarks began at 12:09 p.m.

Glendening was coy about what he was doing at his old stomping grounds. The former governor had an afternoon appointment with House Speaker Michael E. Busch. Asked about the purpose of the visit Glendening refused to answer, adding that of the top 100 things he missed about being governor, answering reporters' questions did not crack the list.

Glendening did say that he had purchased a home near Annapolis with his wife, in the same waterfront community where they had been renting. "Jennifer and I bought a house in Chesapeake Harbour," he said, making them constituents of Busch, who represents Annapolis. "I'm really pleased with my delegate. I'm going to complain to him about the roads."

Asked later about the meeting, Busch offered little insight. He did say that Glendening urged him to keep up the fight against slot machines.

Managing to keep track of everything but time

Talk about a short leash.

Ehrlich's new deputy chief of state, Edward B. Miller, wants to keep careful tabs on the independent agencies he oversees. Miller distributed a memorandum late last month containing a detailed set of new reporting instructions for state agencies.

A former economic development deputy secretary, Miller is asking for independent agencies to file monthly reports beginning Feb. 27 that include "key accomplishments and action items from the past month," and "items for the upcoming couple of months," and "long-term projects that extend beyond the upcoming couple of months."

That's not all. The memos must include "FULL monthly schedule of your agency's leadership ... including all meetings, events, out of town conferences and personal items," as well as open positions, work-related travel plans, and "press releases and clippings from the previous month, scheduled press events for the upcoming month, and other transcribed or distributed public remarks."

Oh yeah: That information is to be condensed into a memo that is "concise, thorough, in bullet-point format, [and] consist(s) of one or two pages."

Miller also wants copies of "all governmental correspondence" forwarded to him.

The governor's chief of staff, Steven L. Kreseski, said last night that because of fallout since the memo went out, the administration has scaled back the request.

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