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Firing of Ehrlich administration employee (the ice dancer) upheld by court

The legal saga surrounding former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich's personnel practices continued this week when Maryland's second highest court found that Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration was within its rights to fire a holdover patronage employee from Ehrlich's term.

The case centers on the employment of Gregory Maddalone, who was fired in 2007 shortly after O'Malley came into office. Maddalone, a former ice dancer, was a central figure in an investigation by Democratic lawmakers who accused the Republican Ehrlich administration of firing long-time state employees for political reasons and hiring "loyalists" to replace them. When Maddalone was fired, Republicans accused the Democrats of hypocrisy.

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An administrative judge ruled that then-Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari illegally fired Maddalone, finding that Porcari didn't know Maddalone's qualifications and targeted him for political reasons. At the time, Maddalone was an emergency response manager earning an annual salary of more than $79,000. The Anne Arundel County Circuit Court later upheld that ruling.

But the Court of Special Appeals held this week that even if Porcari had dug further into Maddalone's resume, he wouldn't have found much reason to retain him. Porcari said he decided to fire Maddalone as part of a planned reorganization."There was nothing in the evidence to show that any additional effort or time that Secretary Porcari (or anyone else) could have taken to obtain Maddalone's personnel file would have uncovered positive information about his job qualifications," the ruling states. "Indeed, the evidence was clear that there was no such positive information to be learned."

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Earlier in the opinion, the court made a point of saying Maddalone did not hold a college degree and that his prior work experience — except for working as an aide to Ehrlich in Congress — was as an ice dancer.

The decision can be found here.

UPDATE:

Separately, the Maryland Court of Appeals ruled last year that Maddalone and another former state employee Craig Chesek must answer questions posed by a special legislative panel that investigated firings under Ehrlich. Maddalone's testimony was taken in July, and an assistant attorney general is seeking to subpoena Chesek, who apparently lives in Pennsylvania.

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