Digest

STATE DIGEST

September 01, 2007

O'Malley defends reasons for firing

Gov. Martin O'Malley rebutted yesterday a former state worker's claims that he was fired for political reasons.

Nelson Reichart, the former head of real estate for the Department of General Services, filed suit this week, contending that he was terminated in a purge of white Republicans from the agency.

Reichart also said his firing was in retaliation for comments he made to The Sun about a Queen Anne's County land deal.

The governor said privacy protections in personnel law prevent him from going into detail about the firing, but he said Reichart's accusations are untrue.

"We have one litmus test and one litmus test only, and that is, are you capable, are you committed, are you professional and are you the best person to do this job," O'Malley said. "We don't do party loyalty tests, nor do we discriminate on the basis of race."

Andrew A. Green

Talbot County

Fire that killed 3 investigated

Fire investigators don't know what caused an Aug. 18 fire in a waterfront mansion that killed three young people.

"We're still working on it," Deputy State Fire Marshal Joseph Zurolo said.

Zurolo told The (Easton) Star Democrat that authorities are also waiting on autopsies and toxicology reports on the victims: Kennedy Michael Fitzgerald, 20, Christine Renee Maier, 19, and Margaret "Maggie" Rose Fitzgerald, 18.

Four other young people escaped the blaze. The owners of the home were away visiting relatives in New Jersey when the fire broke out.

Funeral services for the victims were held last week.

Associated Press

Montgomery Co.

Hospital may lose funds

A hospital is at risk of losing Medicare funding after the death of a malnourished man and a state review that found problems with the feeding of other patients.

State investigations of Adventist Rehabilitation Hospital of Maryland this year found some patients were not receiving diets ordered by their doctors, lapses that could have exacerbated their health problems.

In the case of the man who died, state investigators concluded that his severe malnutrition went largely undocumented and untreated until it was too late, placing additional pressure on his precarious health. Julian Frazier, 29, died in December.

Last month, state health officials notified that Adventist that it had 90 days to make changes before losing Medicare payments. The relatively rare step can be a blow to hospitals, many of which rely on the federal funds to help cover costs.

The hospital, part of the Rockville-based Adventist HealthCare system, has 77 beds at facilities in Rockville and Takoma Park, as well as smaller outpatient centers. Doctors treat patients recovering from conditions such as stroke, spinal-cord damage and brain injuries. It has also worked with veteran amputees from the war in Iraq.

Aisha Bivens, the hospital's quality-management director, characterized Frazier's death as an isolated case, and said the facility is working to improve problems identified by state investigators. Adventist received the Medicare warning letter this week. She said patients at the facility are not at risk.

Associated Press

Frederick County

Men charged in taping of stunts

Frederick County sheriff's deputies have charged four Middletown men with videotaping illegal motorcycle stunts.

Authorities say they arrested the men, ages 18 to 20, on Thursday evening after someone reported seeing a person in the bed of a pickup truck videotaping a daredevil biker in the Braddock Heights area.

In 2004, a Frederick man died when his motorcycle crashed into another vehicle while he was being videotaped doing stunts for an extreme sports Web site.

Associated Press

Allegany County

Safety of race questioned

It will be pedal against metal Oct. 13 when bicyclists race a steam locomotive up a 2,000-foot mountain -- if they can convince local government officials the race is safe.

The Western Maryland Wheelmen announced the race Aug. 21 but hit resistance Thursday from Allegany County officials who questioned the proposed safety measures. The county owns the right-of-way that includes both the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad and the adjacent Allegheny Highlands Trail of Maryland. The trail opened in December.

J. Robert Dick, director of the county's 911 center, and other county officials said the trail may be crowded with other users from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., when the tourist train makes its regularly scheduled run from Cumberland to Frostburg, about 16 miles away.

Race organizer Larry Brock said yesterday that safety measures would include sending a couple bicyclists out ahead of the six to eight racers to warn other trail users they're coming. Brock also said someone would be posted outside Brush Tunnel, which runs 914 feet through Piney Mountain, to ensure that no bikers are inside when the smoke-belching, cinder-spewing, 1916 Baldwin locomotive roars through.

"This is a fun event," Brock said.

associated press

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