HR Strange But True!
February 17, 2005

In Maryland, Democratic lawmakers say they intend to investigate reports that Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. is conducting a purge of the state bureaucracy by firing hundreds of employees--even low-level ones--who happen to be Democrats.

"These are voiceless people, many of whom have been lifelong state employees, who have lost their livelihoods just because they had the temerity to participate in democracy," one Democratic leader, House Speaker Michael E. Busch, told the Washington Post. "These aren't people in political jobs. They are engineers, scientists, street-level workers."

With his election in 2003, Ehrlich became Maryland's first Republican governor in a generation. He has defended his right to reshape the bureaucracy to better serve his policy goals, according to the Post, which notes that Maryland governors have free rein to hire and fire the more than 7,000 people who serve at the executive's pleasure.

Ehrlich's aides told the newspaper that he has not directed the dismissal of anyone who was not an "at will" employee, and that no one was fired for political reasons.

But the Post notes that in at least six cases over the past two years, the state has been taken to court over firings that were alleged to have been politically motivated. And the Ehrlich administration has not fared well in them, according to the newspaper.

Last year, a judge ordered the state to rehire Chrys Wilson, one of five staff members at the Public Service Commission to be fired in one afternoon. She is now collecting a salary while on administrative leave, and her case is on appeal.

Just last week, state lawyers confirmed that they agreed to pay a $100,000 settlement to Vincent J. Gardina, a Democratic member of the Baltimore County Council who was fired from an engineering position at the Maryland Environmental Service.

Source: The Washington Post

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