Raynor resigns from Md. elections board

THE BALTIMORE SUN

On the eve of a battle over his confirmation, Gene M. Raynor, the former Maryland elections chief who helped lead a failed effort to fire his successor, has resigned from the State Board of Elections.

Raynor said yesterday that he told board members Tuesday he was resigning immediately. Raynor said he was frustrated with their reluctance to force Linda H. Lamone from her job.

"They're afraid she's going to sue them personally if they vote to fire her," he said. "I thought that if I was not comfortable there, why should I be there?"

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. appointed Raynor, a critic of Lamone, to serve as one of the Democratic members of the board last summer, but Democratic senators objected, saying they should have had a hand in selecting their party's representatives.

"Once we brought it to [the administration's] attention that they were going to face a difficult confirmation hearing, it was their choice that he resign," said Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, chairman of the Executive Nominations Committee. "We don't want someone who is a Democrat in name only. We want somebody who is going to truly represent the interest of the state party on the board."

Raynor, a longtime ally of Comptroller William Donald Schaefer, was an election administrator for Baltimore and the state for decades. Months before the governor appointed him, he publicly said he thought Lamone should be "thrown out on her ear."

Aides to Ehrlich, a Republican, have made no secret of their desire to take control of the state elections machinery, and they wanted Lamone out. Raynor was widely regarded as part of that effort. But state law prevented Lamone from being fired without cause, and she waged a successful legal battle to keep her job.

Lamone, who took over as elections administrator in 1997 after Raynor retired, has indirectly criticized Raynor by saying the office she inherited was unprofessional.

Raynor did not leave quietly this week. He said he wasn't worried about whether the Senate would confirm him but was frustrated by working with Lamone and the board. "Her arrogance is unbelievable," Raynor said.

He said he repeatedly asked to see Lamone's expense accounts but that she refused to provide them. Lamone said he never asked for them.

Raynor also said Lamone spent too much when the elections board moved, in particular for a wood floor in her office. Lamone's attorney, Tim Maloney, said Raynor "had an obsession with the flooring," which Maloney said was cheaper than the carpeting in the rest of the suite.

Lamone did not return fire yesterday. "I wish him well in his future endeavors," Lamone said.

Maloney said Raynor's comments violated the settlement between the board and Lamone that ended its attempts to fire her. But he said Lamone has no plans to take legal action against Raynor.

Election board Chairman Gilles W. Burger said he is sorry to see Raynor go. "He's a good guy, and he's had decades of experience to help us out with proceedings," Burger said. "I'm going to miss him."

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