Mayor-governor battle over social services goes before judge today

Blair appointment violates the law, O'Malley says

July 12, 2004|By Doug Donovan | Doug Donovan,SUN STAFF

A Baltimore circuit judge is scheduled to hear arguments today regarding Mayor Martin O'Malley's lawsuit against Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. over control of the city's troubled social services agency.

O'Malley contends in a lawsuit filed Nov. 24 that Ehrlich's appointment Sept. 3 of Floyd R. Blair as director of the Department of Social Services violates the law because Blair lacks five years' management experience and the mayor's approval.

"To be appointed to the job requires the concurrence of the mayor," said Baltimore City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler.

The state has said that Blair is serving in an interim capacity, which allows the governor to make the choice without the mayor's approval until a director is named to a permanent position.

"Until we can reach a concurrence with the city, someone has to do the job," said Maryland Assistant Attorney General Steven M. Sullivan, who represents the state in the case. "Blair has been doing the job."

Tyler is scheduled today to face off with Sullivan and other representatives from the attorney general's office. Both sides have filed motions for summary judgment and will argue their respective positions at 9 a.m. before Judge M. Brooke Murdock.

The judge can rule on the case immediately, issue a written ruling later or, in an unlikely step, send the case to trial, Sullivan said.

In December another circuit judge denied O'Malley's request for a temporary restraining order to prevent Blair from making any changes to the 2,600-employee department, which serves more than 50,000 children, until a ruling.

On Dec. 18, two days after that ruling, Blair suggested closing nine offices as part of a sweeping reorganization proposal.

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