Blair gets support of state senator

In letter, McFadden says interim social services chief should stay in post

September 01, 2004|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

State Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden has weighed in on a lengthy and bitter battle over Baltimore's social services chief, taking the side of Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. over that of a fellow Democrat, Mayor Martin O'Malley.

In a letter sent to the governor and mayor last week, McFadden offered his support for Floyd R. Blair, interim director of the Baltimore City Department of Social Services.

McFadden said Blair should be allowed to continue at the helm of the state agency, which is responsible for the welfare of the city's most vulnerable children and adults.

The Ehrlich administration appointed Blair last September, over the objections of O'Malley, who said Blair lacked five years of management experience and the mayor's approval. Both are required by law.

"I have often given a lot of thought to what makes an effective leader," McFadden wrote. "Is it the number of college degrees and years of experience working in specific capacities, or is it what is in the person's heart, their ability to think intelligently and strategically about what is best for their constituency and staff? I think it would be the latter."

McFadden wrote that he had received "numerous calls" from agency staff and community members who support Blair.

Missed deadline

The state senator's letter was dated Aug. 23, three days before a court-ordered deadline that the city and state faced for agreeing on a director. O'Malley sued the state over Blair's appointment, and on July 12, a Circuit Court judge gave both sides 45 days to find a director. The city and state missed the Aug. 26 deadline, but submitted a report to the judge, assuring her that progress was being made.

The 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 this week.

It was not clear yesterday if interviews have begun; the governor's and mayor's offices said they could not determine that.

But there was no doubt that Ehrlich continues to back Blair, a cause that McFadden's letter was intended to boost.

"It's obviously a check in the Floyd Blair column, the support of a Baltimore City senator," said Shareese N. DeLeaver, an Ehrlich spokeswoman. "The governor has never wavered in his support of Floyd Blair. Hopefully the mayor will heed McFadden's words."

`Ongoing search'

Stephen Kearney, a spokesman for O'Malley, declined to comment on the letter but said the search for a new director is continuing.

"There's an ongoing search for candidates that are legally qualified and will be appointed with the concurrence with the city and the state and that search should wrap up in a few weeks," Kearney said.

McFadden's office said he was out of town yesterday and could not be reached for comment.

McFadden's history with O'Malley has been mixed, but the senator has worked closely with the mayor since he took office, according to O'Malley's staff.

When O'Malley was running for mayor in 1999, McFadden opposed him. McFadden supported O'Malley in last September's Democratic primary, although he also had good things to say about the mayor's opponent, high school principal Andrey Bundley.

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