Md. appointment angers executive in Howard Co.

McCabe chooses director of social services without getting input from Robey

July 28, 2004|By Larry Carson | Larry Carson,SUN STAFF

An angry Howard County Executive James N. Robey said he is tired of being slighted by Ehrlich administration officials and will demand that he be included in deliberations over a new county social services director at a meeting next week with Christopher J. McCabe, state secretary of human resources.

Robey stopped short of demanding the withdrawal of McCabe's unilateral choice of Doris Mason as interim social services director.

But Del. Frank S. Turner, former county House delegation chairman, urged Robey to insist on it if no agreement is reached.

The name should be withdrawn "or it ought to go to court just like Baltimore," Turner said, referring to a similar fight McCabe lost to Mayor Martin O'Malley over the selection of Floyd R. Blair as interim city social services director. A city Circuit Court judge agreed with O'Malley that state law requires concurrence on the choice. He gave city and state officials 45 days to choose a mutually agreeable director.

FOR THE RECORD - An article published in yesterday's editions of The Sun about a dispute between Howard County Executive James N. Robey and state Secretary of Human Resources Christopher J. McCabe over naming an interim social services director in Howard County incorrectly referred to the gender of Baltimore Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock. The judge is a woman.
The Sun regrets the error.

In Maryland, local social services offices are state agencies that serve county needs.

Turner accused McCabe of breaking promises he made to a House of Delegates committee to include the county in the personnel choices.

McCabe spokesman Norris West said withdrawing Mason as the interim choice and starting anew would not be a good idea.

"I think the focus right now is on a permanent director. I don't think anybody wants to jerk the staff around," West said. Sam Marshall, who has been Howard's director for 30 years, is retiring Friday.

"The ultimate goal is to make sure the two gentlemen agree on the next person," West said.

"I want the procedure followed, and they have not followed the procedure so far," Robey said. "I'm going to be 100 percent insistent that the process be followed by law."

Robey, a Democrat, is upset at his treatment in general by Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s Republican administration.

He said McCabe's failure to consult him in choosing Mason, an assistant director in Howard for the past year, was the last straw -- especially since his choice for interim director was ignored by McCabe.

"It bothers me a whole lot. No one talked to me," Robey said. "I have a message on my recorder at home from Chris McCabe apologizing to me for not talking to me sooner."

Robey said this isn't the first time he has been snubbed.

"This is the third time I've been slapped in the face by state government," Robey said. He was not informed about a state-sponsored news conference on improvements to a Route 32 intersection this year, he said, and was barred from the state's tent at the Preakness in May when he sought to visit with Howard County business people inside.

"And now this. I've always tried to work with this administration. They obviously could [not] care less about me and Howard County. I've had it," Robey said.

After speaking to McCabe on the phone, he said the secretary told him that "he wants to resolve this as amicably as possible."

In Baltimore County, McCabe did agree to County Executive James T. Smith Jr.'s choice of Marci Van De Mark -- a county employee -- as interim social services director after director Barbara Gradet's departure. Smith spokeswoman Tori Leonard said Van De Mark is not interested in the permanent post, however, while Mason, an 18-year state employee who lives in Easton, has said she is.

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