Worker losses seen spiking in '03

800 at-will employees left jobs in Ehrlich's first year, data show


During 2003, the year that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. took office, 207 at-will state workers were terminated, more than triple those fired by his predecessor the year that he was sworn in, according to data provided by the Department of Legislative Services.

The information, which was culled at the request of the special committee investigating Ehrlich's personnel practices, shows that while the number of people leaving state jobs under Ehrlich was essentially on a par with those who left under former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, there was clearly a spike in the number of at-will and special-appointment state employees who left their jobs when Ehrlich took office.

In 2003, more than 800 at-will workers -- a category of people who serve at the pleasure of the governor -- left their jobs. Under Glendening, that number had peaked at approximately 650 in 1996.

"Every department can use a little housecleaning, if you will," said Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, an Eastern Shore Republican who sits on the committee.

Democrats on the committee expressed concern that midlevel managers appear to be leaving in higher numbers under Ehrlich. In 2003, about 55 management service workers (not including those who work at the Maryland Department of Transportation) were terminated, while nearly 30 were fired in 2004. Under Glendening, no more than eight were fired in a given year.

"If that continues, you'll lose your institutional memory," said Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat. "These are the people who run the departments."

The committee also heard from its outside counsel, Ward B. Coe III, who advised members that he has found 19 former state employees who might be willing to testify to the committee about their firings. Coe said he will interview those candidates in coming weeks and will present the committee with a list.

The committee's next meeting is Dec. 13.

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