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Steffen's spirit

Joe Steffen, the former governor's aide who calls himself the Prince of Darkness, has yet to appear before the legislative committee investigating Bob Ehrlich's hiring and firing practices. But his spirit lingered over the proceedings, including Monday's testimony from three state employees who lost their jobs.

Consider Debbie Rosen McKerrow, an erstwhile spokeswoman for the Maryland Insurance Administration. She told told the committee about an October 2003 meeting that brought together spokesmen and women from various state agencies. The message, she said, was political:

"You are the reelection committee," Ehrlich's communications director Paul E. Schurick told the group. "Everything you do from this point on is for the reelection of the governor."

Schurick, speaking through deputy press secretary Shareese DeLeaver, denied that account. "He said if that's how she describes the meeting, then she lied under oath," DeLeaver said.

"Debbie McKerrow was replaced because she was a sub-par public information officer, not up to the task at hand," she said. "We chose to put a more capable PIO at the insurance administration, which we considered an extremely important position."

And who was the person who replaced McKerrow? Joe Steffen.

Matt Mosk

Ehrlich later fired Steffen, after the long-time aide talked in an Internet chat about an effort to spread gossp about an Ehrlich political rival.

By Phyllis Jordan  |  January 30, 2006; 7:17 PM ET
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