Personnel panel issues 5 subpoenas

THE BALTIMORE SUN

After a closed-door meeting, the special committee investigating Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s personnel practices voted yesterday to subpoena five new witnesses to testify about whether the administration fired state workers for political reasons.

To prevent leaks to reporters, the identities of the subpoenaed witnesses were kept secret even from committee members, who officials said were briefed before the vote on the nature of each person's expected testimony but not given their names.

Ward Coe, the committee's attorney, said as many as three people might also testify voluntarily during the committee's next meeting Jan. 20.

Though committee members had hoped to wrap up their efforts by the end of the month, several said yesterday that they anticipate continuing the investigation into the legislative session.

"If it goes beyond, I don't think you are going to see me sitting there because we have the people's business to do," said Sen. J. Lowell Stoltzfus, the Senate minority leader. He was the lone vote against the subpoenas.

Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat, said the committee is in discussion with the administration about obtaining some 30,000 documents from at least two different state agencies. Frosh said the committee might have to subpoena the documents if the governor's counsel doesn't agree to provide them.

"We hope to get the cooperation of the administration, but so far we don't have what we want," Frosh said.

Committee leaders have said they are trying to determine if protections for "at-will employees" - state workers who can be fired by the governor without cause - should be expanded and if the administration violated any laws in dismissing state workers.

Jennifer.skalka@baltsun.com

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