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Happy Anniversary


Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the day Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. fired long-time aide Joseph Steffen for a series of Internet postings in which he described an orchestrated effort to smear one of the governor's political rivals.

And what better way to celebrate that day than with a letter from the man Ehrlich tasked to investigate whether Steffen's claims of organized subterfuge were true: the governor's own lawyer, Jervis S. Finney.

Finney's letters have become a quirky sideshow to the Steffen affair. Rambling, at times obtuse, but always biting in their defense of his boss. And today's letter is no different.

This one is addressed to Ward Coe, the attorney hired by the legislature to investigate the firing of scores of state employees after Ehrlich took office. (Steffen, it turned out, was also involved in culling state agencies for employees who could be ousted.)

The letter stretches four pages, but is most focused on a recent Baltimore Sun story. He takes issue with comments by Coe in the story that he says suggests he is not fully cooperating with the investigation. Though Finney then defends his decisions to withhold a handful of records on the grounds that they are protected by executive privilege.

Finney's letter criticizes the investigation's yield when it comes to employees testifying about their humiliating departures, often after long careers of public service.

"Almost one year later, your so-called Special Committee's investigation has yielded 13 former at-will appointees, with nothing to support their claims but rumors, hearsay and speculation," Finney writes.

The day also brought news from Steffen. Steffen told Sun columnist Laura Vozzella that he will not, as previously announced, run for governor himself.

But Steffen tells Vozzella he wants it known that there is more to him than the person first described to the public one year ago--the self-described "Prince of Darkness" who dreamed up political dirty tricks to play on Ehrlich's political opponents.

By  |  February 8, 2006; 5:16 PM ET
Categories:  Governor  
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