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Firing of Ehrlich Loyalist Ruled Illegal

When Greg Maddalone worked for then-Gov. Robert L Ehrlich (R), he was accused of gleefully draping a T-shirt that read "you're fired" over his chair, angering Democrats who said they were being purged from state government for political reasons.

When Martin O'Malley defeated Ehrlich and took over in January, Maddalone was one of the first state employees to get the boot. But a judge this week ruled Maddalone's firing improper -- bringing great cheer to the state's downtrodden GOP.

Maddalone appealed to an administrative law judge, who ruled his firing by Transportation Secretary John Porcari illegal because Porcari reportedly did not look at his personnel file, resume or performance reviews. Judge Susan Sinrod ordered the transportation agency to reinstate Maddalone with full back pay and benefits.

"We're examining the ruling to see what the stated intent of the judge was and what options may be available to the department," including appeal, said Jack Cahalan, a spokesman for the Department of Transportation.

During Ehrlich's four-year term, Democrats criticized him for firing hundreds of employees believed to be Democratic loyalists.

Those firings prompted a 14-month investigation by the Democrat-led General Assembly, which concluded the governor dispatched loyalists, including Maddalone, into state agencies to identify people to let go.

Among other things, the report said the firing of Maryland Environmental Service project manager Vincent Gardina "was based on his political activities in violation of [state law] and his constitutional rights." Gardina, a Democrat on the Baltimore County Council, received a $100,000 court settlement from the Republican administration.

Maddalone, originally hired in 2003 to an entry-level position in Ehrlich's office, worked at the Office of Engineering Procurement and Emergency Services, the position from which he was fired at a salary of $73,309, Cahalan said.
Maddalone, a former professional ice dancer, had no college degree or experience in emergency management. He worked in past Ehrlich's campaigns.

The Maryland Republican Party issued a scathing statement yesterday from chairman James Pelura.
"It is amazing that Democrats spent more than $1.1 million and thirteen months investigating Governor Ehrlich for perceived unlawful firings ..... Martin O'Malley was in office for not even six days when his administration unlawfully fired a state employee."

By Phyllis Jordan  |  June 14, 2007; 6:53 PM ET
Categories:  Lisa Rein  
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