Though he ran on a campaign to streamline state government after years of
Democratic excess, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has quietly created new
high-paying positions and layers of bureaucracy that, in many cases, reward
legislative allies, campaign workers and others who helped him get elected,
state payroll records show.
These new positions are among hundreds of other new hires that are expected
when any administration comes into office - from Cabinet secretaries to policy
advisers and clerical staff.
With this administration, the staffing turnover was compounded when only
the second Republican since World War II took control of the governor's office
and its considerable patronage powers.
"The turnover's more dramatic because they are dismissing people that
[previous Gov. Parris N.] Glendening probably didn't feel like he had to
dismiss when he took office," said James G. Gimpel, an associate professor of
government at the University of Maryland, College Park.
As of early last month, the governor had hired 124 people to state jobs
paying $70,000 or more, according to payroll records. And more are going on
the payroll with each passing week.
But beyond the expected replacements, Ehrlich is creating positions for
political allies and contributors, even as the state struggles to bring a $1
billion budget shortfall under control and as deep funding cuts to the
University System of Maryland and state agencies force administrators to
explore layoffs, unparalleled tuition increases and cutbacks in services.
Malik Rahman, a longtime Baltimore political operative who had been a paid
staffer for Ehrlich's campaign, landed a new $71,123-a-year job in the state
Housing Department to "look at options" for financing housing projects.
Three new assistant secretary positions were created in the state's
Planning Department that pay $66,884 to $80,312. The three people hired had
campaigned for Ehrlich, one as a paid campaign staff member, the others as
Tim E. Braue, a lawyer who headed President Bush's campaign in Maryland in
2000, was appointed to a new $90,270 position as special assistant to the
secretary of the Department of Business and Economic Development. He said his
main responsibility initially was to coordinate the department's Preakness
events, but he also will be working to get more federal grants flowing into
the state economic development agency.
Since taking office in mid-January, Ehrlich has found work for dozens of
prominent Republican officeholders, former legislators or their wives or
relatives. Some were hired for newly created jobs; others are filling
positions that existed previously. How many have been hired into newly created
positions is difficult to determine because some agencies have been
reorganized and some jobs have been retitled.
Ehrlich's spokesman, Greg Massoni, said that the administration is proud of
its hiring decisions. In reorganizing state government to make it more
efficient, Massoni said, the administration is cutting many positions even as
it adds others.
"There are not just political thank-yous on that list," Massoni said. "It's
not business as usual. We have looked for the brightest and best and that's
who we've gone after, regardless of party affiliation."
He pointed out the appointment of people such as former Democratic Del.
Kenneth C. Montague Jr. as secretary of the Juvenile Services Department and
others to other prominent positions.
However, some appointments have had clear political overtones.
For example, a waiver was granted to circumvent an existing hiring freeze
to hire Julie S. Madden, wife of Ehrlich political adviser Martin G. Madden.
She was appointed the director of arts and community outreach in the
Department of Business and Economic Development. She was an art history major
in school, served as a trustee of Maryland Citizens for the Arts and was on
the board of the African Art Museum of Maryland in Columbia.
Massoni noted that the state's annual payroll costs overall are down "well
over $500,000" since Ehrlich assumed office, largely because many positions
are left unfilled as they become vacant. The state employs about 108,000
people, including those working for colleges and universities, and has an
annual payroll of $5.3 billion.
Government policy experts say it is normal for any new administration to
want to bring in as many of its people as it can. A new governor has to put
into key positions people who will be loyal and who can be counted on to
execute his policies, said Gimpel, the University of Maryland professor.
"Loyalty is even first over experience and competency," Gimpel said. "You
want all three, but loyalty is the first."
Referring to Ehrlich's appointments, Gimpel said, "It may be that they
don't have as much experience but what they bring to the administration is
loyalty and the trust of the governor who wants these agencies ultimately to
be responsible to him."
But others are critical of Ehrlich for drawing so heavily from the ranks of
legislators and others in the political world to fill state positions.
"They have made a lot of political appointments but they are forgetting
that in addition to loyalty there has to be competence," said Del. Peter
Franchot, a Montgomery County Democrat
Generally, he said, past governors have teamed their political appointees
with professional staff "who are able to make the trains run on time."
One of Ehrlich's more controversial hires early in his administration was
ex-Sen. Clarence M. Mitchell IV for a $92,049- a-year job in the Housing
Mitchell, who headed the Democrats for Ehrlich campaign committee, had been
reprimanded by the General Assembly's ethics commission last year for failing
to disclose a $10,000 loan from three businessmen with issues before the
legislature. His appointment prompted a public outcry, and he was forced to
resign two weeks after taking the state job.
Since then, Mitchell's top aide, Zachary L. McDaniels, who also helped in
Ehrlich's campaign, has been appointed to an $80,570-a-year job as Lt. Gov.
Michael S. Steele's deputy chief of staff.
Although he works in Steele's office, McDaniels' salary is paid out of the
Department of Natural Resources budget, payroll records show. McDaniels
refused interview requests about his duties.
Massoni said the Ehrlich administration is following a longtime practice of
borrowing - authorized state positions from other departments to meet its
Like Mitchell and McDaniels, Rahman also helped Ehrlich campaign in
predominantly African-American and Democratic Baltimore.
Campaign finance reports show that Rahman was paid $12,888 by Democrats for
"I was field coordinator and my job was to go out and get votes," said
Rahman, who holds a criminal justice degree from Coppin State University.
Rahman said his role in the Housing Department's neighborhood
revitalization division is to "look at options outside of the box" to help
finance housing development projects in Baltimore City and Prince George's and
Remaking an agency
At the Planning Department, three new assistant secretary positions were
created as part of an agency reorganization designed to make the department
run more smoothly, an agency spokesman said.
But others familiar with the agency said the hires added a new level of
bureaucracy that didn't exist under Glendening.
The positions are held by Tom W. Rimrodt, Aaron N. Tomarchio and Stephen S.
During Ehrlich's campaign, Rimrodt, whose salary is now $80,312, had been a
paid deputy to the political director, Joseph M. Getty. Getty, a former
delegate, is now a top aide to the governor with a salary of $120,000 a year.
Rimrodt, who also was a city manager for a small California town, oversees
three divisions in the Planning Department with about 50 employees.
The two other new assistant secretaries direct other divisions of the
agency. Both said they did volunteer work on Ehrlich's campaign.
Tomarchio, who is paid $66,684 a year, had been a consultant with Booz
Allen Hamilton in suburban Washington.
Hershey ran unsuccessfully last fall for a seat on the Queen Anne's County
Board of Commissioners. A former vice president of project management services
for a real estate firm, Hershey is paid $74,301 in his new state job.
Chuck Gates, a spokesman for the Planning Department, said the new layer of
bureaucracy was an outgrowth of talks with agency workers, who complained that
the department lacked a unified vision and leadership.
"The decision made was that we needed to put in a layer of policy-oriented
leadership that can help direct the overall mission of the department," Gates
Planning Secretary Audrey E. Scott, a former Prince George's County Council
member, chose as her deputy secretary Betsy Burian, who was her council
legislative aide. Burian is paid $90,270 a year. The position had been held
previously by a career department employee with degrees in management and
Scott also has hired a $33,399-a-year executive assistant whose duties
include sometimes serving as her driver.
Despite the new positions, Gates said that the Planning Department is
operating with seven fewer people than it had as of mid-November because some
people who have left have not been replaced. He said the agency has about 125
Some of Ehrlich's political appointees have followed tortuous paths before
finally finding a place to land.
Robert Banks Jr., the general manager of a BMW dealership who says he
raised more then $50,000 for Ehrlich, was in line to replace the well-regarded
Anne S. Ferro as head of the Motor Vehicle Administration.
The decision infuriated a number of legislators from both parties - who
praised her reforms at the MVA - and Ferro was allowed to keep her position.
But Banks still went on the state payroll, as special assistant to the
transportation secretary at a salary of $110,276 a year.
Banks said that he led the agency's efforts to work with Baltimore City
officials on snow removal efforts during this winter's major snowstorm in
February. "We kept the buses running; we were right in the operations center,"
he said. He said he also has been involved in the reorganization of the
Maryland Transit Administration.
Another appointment to draw critical attention was that of Phillip D.
Bissett, a former legislator and unsuccessful candidate for Anne Arundel
County executive. He was hired for a $77,710-a-year job in the Department of
Current and former officials said that Bissett tried to fire at least one
DNR employee without consulting DNR Secretary C. Ronald Franks; lobbied
against an agency-backed bill; and openly derided the agency and Franks'
The episodes resulted in Bissett's removal from DNR, although he remained
on its payroll until early last month.
Bissett recently was assigned to work as a program manager in the Motor
Vehicle Administration's office of planning and finance at a salary of
$80,570, according to state Transportation Department spokesman Jack Cahalan.
Through Massoni, the Ehrlich press secretary, Bissett declined requests for
an interview about his new position.
Massoni rebuffed efforts to interview about a half-dozen members of the
75-member executive staff for the governor's and lieutenant governor's offices
about their job descriptions and employment histories. He also declined to
provide their resumes.
Payroll records show that 75 people work directly for the governor's and
lieutenant governor's offices, the same number as the previous administration.
The costs to staff the office under Ehrlich, as of payroll reports for
early last month, were running $5.1 million a year. That's an increase from
$4.8 million a year at the end of 2002.
The biggest annual salary of $160,826 goes to Steven L. Kreseski, the
governor's chief of staff. His predecessor, Eugene R. Lynch, earned the same
working for Glendening.
Ehrlich and Steele are both drawing higher salaries than their predecessors
because of pay increases that took effect under state law.
Ehrlich draws a salary of $135,000 a year, compared with $120,000 for
Glendening; Steele is paid $112,500 a year, while Kathleen Kennedy Townsend
was paid $100,000.