A high-ranking state official said yesterday that Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley's sister-in-law was never targeted for dismissal, despite e-mails from an ousted aide of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. questioning her position.

In an e-mail last summer, former Ehrlich aide Joseph F. Steffen Jr. asked a gubernatorial appointments official, Diane Baker, whether Melinda O'Malley - then on maternity leave - could be moved from her job as an attorney for the Maryland Insurance Administration.

Ehrlich fired Steffen in February after the aide admitted spreading rumors about Martin O'Malley's personal life. In March, the Ehrlich administration released to the media 14,500 e-mails from Steffen that revealed a portrait of a political operative who had regular access to the highest levels of government and was trying to stack state agencies with Ehrlich loyalists.

Maryland Insurance Commissioner Alfred W. Redmer Jr. said last night that as a courtesy he alerted Melinda O'Malley - who is married to Martin O'Malley's brother Peter - that one of the Steffen e-mails released to the media mentioned her. But, he said, the intentions in Steffen's e-mail from last summer - first revealed yesterday by The Washington Post - would have had no influence on his personnel decisions.

"The end result is that [Steffen] never said anything to me about Melinda O'Malley, who has been a valuable member of the team," Redmer said. "She's always been a hardworking, very sharp lawyer."

An spokesman for Martin O'Malley, Rick Abbruzzese, said, "A new mother on maternity leave was targeted by the governor's team."

An Ehrlich spokeswoman said the Steffen e-mails related to Melinda O'Malley were part of the package of Steffen documents released in March.

"There is no evidence anyone outside of Joe Steffen has acted in an unacceptable manner," said Ehrlich spokeswoman Shareese N. DeLeaver.