Steffen told to testify before panel


Joe Steffen is finally on deck.

A Harford County Circuit Court judge ruled yesterday that Joseph F. Steffen Jr. - the former aide to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. who has said he was involved in identifying state workers to be fired - should testify today before a special legislative committee.

The committee is investigating whether longtime government employees were terminated for partisan reasons to make room for Ehrlich loyalists.

In a brief hearing, Judge Maurice W. Baldwin Jr. upheld the committee's subpoena power, dismissing Steffen's motion to quash. Steffen, tagged "Prince of Darkness" by the governor, had claimed in court documents that the committee did not have subpoena authority.

"In my view, the subpoena is a lawful one," Baldwin said.

Committee counsel Ward B. Coe III said he expects Steffen to appear today in Annapolis to answer questions before a bipartisan committee of state lawmakers.

Before filing the motion, Steffen had indicated his willingness to cooperate, Coe said. "If he doesn't show up we have to go to court to compel him to come," he said.

Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, the Republican leader from the Eastern Shore, said he and his GOP colleagues on the committee might not attend the meeting. He called the effort costly and a "ludicrous waste of time," and said he did not care to hear from Steffen.

"Nothing has raised to the level yet that it was a concerted effort, partisan effort to purge people because they were Democrats," he said.

The committee has spent the past year interviewing former state employees and Ehrlich aides to determine if workers were fired because of political affiliation. The probe began after Steffen acknowledged discussing rumors about Mayor Martin O'Malley, a Democrat running for governor, on the Internet.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.