Judge to rule in 30 days on Steffen testimony

October 26, 2006|By Justin Fenton | Justin Fenton,SUN REPORTER

A Harford County Circuit Court judge will issue a written opinion within 30 days that will determine whether Joseph F. Steffen Jr., a former longtime aide to Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., must give additional testimony before a legislative committee investigating the administration's personnel practices.

Even if the decision by Judge Thomas E. Marshall favors the committee, Steffen's testimony would likely come after next month's gubernatorial election. Republicans have accused the committee of trying to affect the outcome of the election.

In a hearing yesterday, Assistant Attorney General Robert A. Zarnoch argued that Steffen's testimony conflicted with that of other witnesses, and that the Ehrlich administration's role was unclear.

Nicknamed the "Prince of Darkness" by the governor, Steffen testified in August that he was placed in three state agencies to examine the functions of those departments. He said party affiliation was a consideration in his suggested firings but that he had no authority to make those decisions.

He declined to answer several questions about his contact with individuals in state government and his employment.

Steffen's attorney, George S. Robinson IV, maintained yesterday that he had answered more than 1,000 questions, refusing only 30 that he considered private.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

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