From his hospital bed in Baltimore, Maryland's public safety chief is keeping people wondering: Will he or won't he go through with plans to resign to take a job at Johns Hopkins Hospital?
Bishop L. Robinson, who runs the state police and prison system, said two weeks ago that he would resign by early June.
Gov. William Donald Schaefer, in fact, planned to announce his replacement at a news conference yesterday. But an hour beforehand, Mr. Schaefer learned that the hospitalized Mr. Robinson wanted to keep his state job.
Mr. Schaefer went on to tell reporters that he expected Mr. Robinson to return to his job in four to six weeks, after he finishes recovering from brain surgery.
Mr. Robinson, 66, was in stable condition at Mercy Medical Center yesterday after undergoing surgery Saturday to remove a blood clot from the surface of the brain.
Mr. Schaefer said he and Mary Ann Saar, who was to be named as Mr. Robinson's permanent replacement, were "very pleased" that Mr. Robinson would be staying on as public safety secretary.
"If Bishop Robinson decides he's going to leave, there is not any question as to who I will appoint," the governor said, referring to Ms. Saar, a former prosecutor who heads Maryland's juvenile services department. "But I do not think I will be doing that."
That was not the end of the story.
The governor's announcement appeared to have taken Hopkins officials by surprise. Mr. Robinson was scheduled to begin a job as director of security at the East Baltimore hospital complex in a few weeks.
"I can't confirm or deny anything at this point," hospital spokeswoman Carol Pearson said yesterday afternoon.
Then Mr. Robinson released this statement last evening: "My primary objective is to continue my recovery. As to my future, I will make that decision after I have talked with my doctor. That decision, which will be made at a later date, will be based on the best interests of all parties concerned."
Government sources said Mr. Robinson was concerned about starting a strenuous new job at Hopkins in the wake of his surgery.
It appeared that Mr. Robinson wanted to keep his options open with the state and Hopkins during his recovery, they said.
Dr. James A. Block, president and chief executive officer of the Johns Hopkins Health Systems and Hopkins Hospital, said later he will keep the security job open for Mr. Robinson.
"We will wait until Bishop is feeling better," he said. "We're looking forward to discussing his future with him when he is back on his feet."
Governor Schaefer also will be holding a job open for Mr. Robinson, who, he said, is expected to recover fully. Ms. Saar will fill in for Mr. Robinson until he returns to work, Mr. Schaefer said, while she also continues to lead the juvenile services department.
Leonard A. Sipes Jr., a spokesman for the public safety department, said Mr. Robinson has not decided which job he will take.
If Ms. Saar had been named to the $108,000-a-year post yesterday, she would have become only the sixth woman in the country to head a state corrections department.
Women also head the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the corrections agency in New York City.
The Maryland job involves more than just prisons. The secretary is responsible for the state police, the State Fire Marshal, the Division of Parole and Probation, and the Division of Pretrial Detention and Services, which includes the Baltimore City Detention Center.
The hospital had been looking for a high-profile security chief since a doctor was kidnapped there last year by Dontay Carter. If he takes that job, Mr. Robinson would be among the first Cabinet secretaries to leave the lame-duck administration of Mr. Schaefer, who has 19 months left in his second term.