Busch Seeks Ehrlich Probe; Governor's Hiring, Firing Practices Eyed
Byline: Robert Redding Jr., THE WASHINGTON TIMES
ANNAPOLIS - House Speaker Michael E. Busch yesterday appointed the speaker pro tem to a joint committee probing firings by Republican Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
"Today we are making an announcement from the House that we are going to join the Senate investigation," he said after naming Delegate Adrienne A. Jones to the committee.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., Calvert and Prince George's Democrat, said two weeks ago that the Senate would conduct an independent investigation into the actions of Ehrlich aide Joseph F. Steffen Jr. and others within the administration, following the close of the General Assembly session in mid-April.
"We just want to join the Miller investigation in a cooperative effort," said Mr. Busch, Anne Arundel Democrat.
Mrs. Jones, a Baltimore County Democrat, will work with Sen. Brian E. Frosh, a Montgomery County Democrat.
Democratic lawmakers are investigating Mr. Steffen, who is said to have referred to himself as "Dr. Death" because he sought state employees not loyal to Mr. Ehrlich and fired them.
They also are concerned because Mr. Steffen used e-mail and Internet chat rooms to spread marital-infidelity rumors about Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, a potential Democratic candidate for governor in 2006.
Upon learning about the Internet activity, Mr. Ehrlich fired Mr. Steffen, who has worked in several state agencies, most recently as a communications director in the Maryland Insurance Administration.
Mr. Busch said the joint committee would determine whether an independent investigator would be assigned to look into the matter and whether the investigator would have legislative oversight, subpoena power and the ability to conduct audits.
"We don't want to make this a witch hunt, but we do want to be responsive," Mr. Busch said. "Every administration has a right to bring in their own people at the highest levels of government management. But there are numerous reports of the administration terminating employees who are highly qualified career civil servants. …