State job stirs concern

The Political Game

Hiring: Despite tight economic times, a newly created $79,771-a-year post goes to the wife of a talk-show host sympathetic to the governor.

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

THE DAY AFTER Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and the state Board of Public Works laid off 43 employees this summer, a well-paid worker began in a newly created position.

June Smith took the helm of the communications office of the state Department of Juvenile Services, where she will earn $79,771 a year, according to state records.

Her hiring surprised some department employees, who were unaware that a new job was being created at a time when the governor was ordering agencies to scour their budgets, target programs for elimination and reduce spending by up to 12 percent.

Smith is the wife of Ron Smith, the WBAL radio talk-show personality who hosts a bi-monthly show with Ehrlich. The governor's staff installed special equipment on the second floor of the State House allowing Ehrlich to engage in banter with Smith and field generally friendly questions from him and callers.

Ehrlich frequently says he prefers to communicate with the public on talk radio, rather than through interviews with reporters or editorial writers at the state's largest newspapers.

Under orders from the governor's communications office, June Smith did not respond to a request to discuss her new job. But Paul E. Schurick, a top Ehrlich aide, said she was hired for her skills, not her connections.

"It has absolutely nothing to do with who she is married to," he said. "It has everything to do with her experience."

Schurick would not provide a copy of Smith's resume, but in a written e-mail message sent to the governor's staff last week, which was reviewed by The Sun, she said she spent 10 years as an assistant director of news and public affairs at Towson University, and worked another 10 years with a communications consulting firm.

The Juvenile Services job brought her out of retirement, she said.

Regular listeners of the Ron Smith show may have heard June Smith on the air. The host calls her "Mrs. Reason," and she sometimes calls to share insights with her husband.

Smith is the second Ehrlich appointee who reflects the governor's relationship with talk-radio personalities. He previously named Tom Marr, a morning host on conservative-leaning WCBM radio, to an unpaid position on the Maryland Aviation Commission.

Ehrlich adviser takes leave to help Kerry campaign

A longtime Ehrlich adviser has given up his desk on the second floor of the State House - at least temporarily.

Nick Schloeder, who coached and taught the governor when he was a student at Gilman School, has taken a leave of absence from his position as special assistant to the governor - a mantle that has caused some discomfort to those around him.

Schloeder, 73, says he and the governor have agreed that he should not work for Ehrlich, a Republican, during the presidential election season.

"I'm a national Democrat, and I want to get involved" in helping the Democratic nominee, Sen. John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, get elected, Schloeder said last week.

In a 1997 interview with The Sun upon his retirement from Gilman, Schloeder called himself an "unreconstructed Franklin Delano Roosevelt Democrat."

There aren't many FDR Dems at the State House these days. Most of the governor's staff accompanied him from Capitol Hill, where they were schooled in the politics of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay.

14 Green Party candidates to appear on ballot in Md.

The Maryland Green Party is fielding the most comprehensive slate of candidates in its history this year, with Greens running for U.S. Senate and five of the state's eight seats in the House of Representatives.

Running for Senate against Democratic incumbent Barbara A. Mikulski is Baltimore resident Maria Allwine, a staunch opponent of the Iraq war who has been arrested several times for civil disobedience, including once in Mikulski's office.

Corporate video and documentary producer Keith Salkowski, a Lutherville native, is running in the 2nd District, where Democrat C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger is the incumbent; and Patsy Allen, a Maryland Department of the Environment employee, is a candidate in the 3rd District against incumbent Democrat Benjamin L. Cardin.

The Greens enlisted Theresa Mitchell Dudley, a Landover civic activist, to run in the 4th District against incumbent Democrat Albert R. Wynn, and Bob S. Auerbach, a former state Green Party co-chairman, in the 5th District to challenge incumbent Steny H. Hoyer.

Gregory J. Hemingway, an accountant and Baltimore County homeowner, is running in the 6th District against Republican incumbent Roscoe Bartlett.

In all, 14 Greens will appear on Maryland ballots in November, including candidates for president and Baltimore City Council, said Daniel Waldman, the state party spokesman.

"All of our candidates are truly ordinary citizens who feel it is their civic duty to run for Congress," Waldman said. "This is in stark contrast to career politicians who essentially make a business out of being public servants."

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