Glitch delays data for panel probing Ehrlich personnel practices

Officials put blame on computer problem

GOP senator wants reporter subpoenaed

November 03, 2005|By JENNIFER SKALKA | JENNIFER SKALKA,SUN REPORTER

The special committee investigating Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s personnel practices hit another roadblock yesterday as members learned that information they had requested about the number and nature of state worker firings over the past 10 years has been delayed because of a computer problem.

The committee's discussion was overshadowed by a Republican state senator's request that the committee subpoena a Washington Post reporter to learn more about his knowledge of MD4- BUSH, an anonymous Internet poster who coaxed a Republican operative into discussing rumors about the mayor of Baltimore.

"We're going to have to find out who indeed is MD4BUSH and how much involvement Mr. [Matthew] Mosk had," Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, an Eastern Shore Republican and special committee member, said of The Washington Post reporter before the start of the legislative panel's meeting.

Democrats dismissed Stoltzfus' request as pure politics and an effort to distract from recent statements by Joseph F. Steffen Jr., the former Ehrlich employee who e-mailed MD4BUSH about Mayor Martin O'Malley's personal life. Breaking an eight-month silence, Steffen said recently that he was dispatched to state agencies by top administration officials to target low-level state workers to be terminated. He volunteered to testify about it.

"When their own guy comes out there and confirms that they were using the state service improperly, they want to change the subject," Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a committee member and Montgomery County Democrat, said of Stoltzfus' comments.

Ward B. Coe III, the committee's new attorney, said he sees no need to hear from Mosk, who reports on Maryland government.

It would take a majority vote of the 12-member committee -- which is made up of eight Democrats and four Republicans -- to subpoena a witness, making a subpoena of Mosk unlikely.

Mosk was not available to comment yesterday.

R.B. Brenner, the Post's Maryland editor, said the newspaper through its sources has tried to get MD4BUSH to come forward. Brenner said that Mosk logged on two or three times as MD4BUSH only to verify that the postings were genuine.

"There's no reason to subpoena Matt Mosk," Brenner said. "We've already reported that we don't know who MD4BUSH is, and that the newspaper had no involvement in the postings. All he did was read them. He didn't post anything himself."

Committee members learned yesterday that information about state worker terminations that they had requested from the Department of Budget and Management was processed incorrectly and must be redone.

"Evidently, Larry, Moe and Curly were doing the programming, at least initially," said Warren G. Deschenaux, director of the Office of Policy Analysis in the Department of Legislative Services.

Andrea M. Fulton, executive director of the Office of Personnel Services and Benefits in the Department of Budget and Management, said that staff departures contributed to the problem.

Fulton said she hopes to have correct information -- which the committee is hoping will provide insight into how many people have lost their jobs over the past several years and why -- to the panel by the end of the week.

The committee is scheduled to meet Nov. 22 but could convene sooner if the department's data is finalized.

jennifer.skalka@baltsun.com

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