2 Cabinet nominees face Senate fight

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Two of Gov. Parris N. Glendening's Cabinet appointees are facing a tough confirmation fight in the Maryland Senate because of their involvement in a controversial Prince George's County pension plan.

The Senate president has urged the governor to consider the wishes of taxpayers angered by recent revelations about the pension plan, while others predict that the nominees, Michael J. Knapp and Frank W. Stegman, will face a barrage of pointed questions from senators.

"I've suggested that the governor might want to review closely the mountain of correspondence that is coming across his desk from constituents," said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., a fellow Democrat from Prince George's County.

Mr. Miller said he himself has received scores of letters and phone calls from county residents opposed to the appointments.

Mr. Knapp and Mr. Stegman helped craft a supplemental county pension program several years ago that has been called overly generous. A key provision allowed Mr. Glendening, Mr. Knapp and two other top aides to the governor to collect early pensions and higher-than-usual severance benefits when they left their county jobs this winter.

The nominations would face a number of "no" votes on the Senate floor, Mr. Miller said, although he could not predict how many.

Before that happens, however, the appointees must be voted upon by the Senate's Executive Nominations Committee. Although the committee has been considered a rubber stamp in the past, several members predicted that the nominees would face tough hearings this month.

"Very simply, there are going to be problems," said Sen. Arthur Dorman, another Prince George's Democrat receiving letters and calls against the appointments.

"It looks like Mr. Knapp is in deep trouble with his nomination" to be personnel secretary, said Sen. Timothy R. Ferguson, a Republican from Carroll County.

"If I were to judge him on what the newspapers were saying, I'd vote 'no.' But I want to talk to him personally," Mr. Ferguson said. "If it was his policy, he's in trouble. If it was the governor's policy, and he took the blame for it, that's another question."

Mr. Glendening said he believes thathe and his aides will be able to sway senators by answering all their questions about the pension.

"Several [senators] have expressed some caution, [saying] that we need to have some very clear answers. But, generally, as we talked to them about different things, most of them indicated their subsequent support," the governor said. "I think it's a matter of making sure that everyone is comfortable with the facts of the situation."

He said he has received a "moderate" amount of mail on the topic, but not nearly as much as he has on subjects such as vehicle emissions testing.

The governor, who is not taking anything for granted, has been meeting with legislators to try to allay their concerns about the nominees.

Earlier this week, the subject came up at a breakfast he had with black senators. The governor told them that once all the facts come out, the senators would be as comfortable with his nominees as he is, recalled Sen. Larry Young, a Baltimore Democrat who chairs the executive nominations panel.

Mr. Young said he expects the nominees to submit "documentation" showing that their pension actions were proper and appropriate given the economic climate at the time.

Last night Mr. Glendening had the Executive Nominations Committee over for dinner at the Governor's Mansion. However, he brushed aside questions about the nominations.

"He insisted that we not even talk about it, because he felt it was not appropriate," said Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell, a Baltimore County Democrat. . . . He was very honorable about the situation."

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