Deadline to name DSS chief passes

City, state officials say progress is being made as they cooperate in search

August 27, 2004|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

City and state officials missed yesterday's court-ordered deadline for finding a social services chief for Baltimore, but they assured a Circuit Court judge that after a yearlong battle over the appointment, they are working together.

Lawyers for the city and state submitted a joint status report to Circuit Judge M. Brooke Murdock, assuring her that progress was being made in the search for a director of the Baltimore City Department of Social Services.

The one-page report noted that the city and state had advertised the position and that Baltimore had hired a search firm. It also said that a recently formed search committee will begin interviewing candidates next week.

"At this point, neither party believes that the court's intervention is necessary," wrote City Solicitor Ralph S. Tyler and two attorneys for the state, Steven M. Sullivan and David E. Beller. "We would request that the court allow the process that is in place to proceed."

The lawyers promised to report back to the court no later than Sept. 15.

"The state and city are still working collaboratively to come up with a suitable director," Shareese N. DeLeaver, a spokeswoman for Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., said yesterday.

The question of who will lead the state-funded agency has been the subject of political and legal wrangling between Mayor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat, and Ehrlich's Republican administration.

The dispute began in September, when Christopher J. McCabe, Maryland's human resources secretary, hired Floyd R. Blair as interim director against O'Malley's wishes.

The mayor filed a lawsuit seeking Blair's removal on grounds that he lacked five years of management experience and O'Malley's approval, which are required by law.

On July 12, Murdock ruled that the state did not have the right to install Blair without O'Malley's consent. She gave the state and city 45 days to agree on someone to lead the agency and left Blair in the job in the meantime.

Ehrlich has said he wants Blair to be considered a candidate for the position.

The city and state agreed last week on the formation of a six-member search committee, which is scheduled to begin interviewing candidates next week. The panel will recommend finalists to O'Malley and McCabe.

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