July 04, 2005

Not so fired up

A few weeks ago the Washington Post reported:

Ehrlich, the first Republican governor in a generation, has also expanded the reach of his patronage by bringing people in; he has made appointments to relatively low-level jobs, such as motor vehicle workers, computer specialists, a highway traffic monitor and other positions that until now were filled through civil-service hires, records and interviews show.
This past weekend the editors of the Post followed up with their take on the subject:
As The Post's Lena H. Sun and Matthew Mosk reported recently, some of the shifts and dismissals have not been pretty, and some have affected workers well below the policymaking levels -- career employees with outstanding performance reviews in traditionally nonpartisan civil service positions.
The next day, July 2, the Post ran a correction in a small box on their editorial page:
The workers in question were in mid-level jobs, but they were at-will employees, not civil service employees.

(Emphases mine.)
That correction isn't good enough. In uncritically accepting the Democratic talking points that Governor Ehrlich had fired civil service employees, the Post injected itself into a partisan debate and took a side in that debate. It was an important point in a front page news article. (Usually local politics are covered in the Metro section.) It gave rise to an editorial that astonishingly acknowledged:
IN MARYLAND, more than 7,000 state workers serve at the will of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R). Since he took office Jan. 15, 2003, he has fired only 284 of them, according to the governor's advisers. That's hardly a purge, especially given the years of Democratic control in Annapolis that preceded Mr. Ehrlich's election.
That's precisely correct. No big deal.
(An earlier editorial wrote:
Democrats say scores or hundreds of state employees may have lost their jobs in this manner at the hands of Mr. Steffen and other agents of the governor who infiltrated agencies of state government. Mr. Ehrlich and his aides have denied it, insisting no Maryland state workers have lost their jobs for being Democrats.

If the Democrats' assertions that workers were vetted for loyalty are true, it may or may not have been illegal -- Maryland governors are empowered to hire and fire more than 7,000 state workers who serve at the pleasure of the executive.

Now the Post's editors acknowledge:
Certainly Mr. Ehrlich is entitled to bring in his own team, and there has been no evidence that laws were broken.
Good of them to acknowledge that. But why were they suggesting that there was something wrong with Ehrlich's actions back in February when there was no evidence short of the hyperbolic claims of Democrats in Annapolis?)
Which brings us to the end of the editorial that hopes that the hearings into Governor Ehrlich's hiring and firing practices will not be politicized:
In response to a decision by Democratic lawmakers to investigate administration personnel practices, Mr. Schurick counters that any such inquiry could bring out dirt on past Democratic abuses. So be it, but the investigation should not degenerate into a partisan rumble.
That's disngenuous. The Post, an "independent" newspaper weighed in on one side of a partisan issue. Now it's hoping that the proceedings won't be partisan? Who do they think they're kidding. They just don't want too much scrutiny of Democratic shenanigans.
At the end of former Governor Glendening's term and after he had separated from his wife, he promoted one of his aides, Jennifer Crawford to a position as deputy chief of staff. Following up on rumors, the Post's reporters staked out Ms. Crawford's townhouse and discovered that the then-Governor sometimes stayed the night but didn't report it for awhile. Not until there were whispers that Ms. Crawford (now Mrs. Glendening) was having undue influence in state matters, did the Post report the relationship.
Though I could find no Post editorials on the subject of whether Governor Glendening had overstepped the bounds of propriety by promoting his girlfriend, the Post's ombudsman, Michael Getler was none too pleased:
So this was a smelly kind of scoop, one where you hold your nose and argue that the ends -- more openness in government, even on touchy subjects -- justify the journalistic means. Crawford has had big advances in position and salary. Taxpayer money is used for official trips she and the governor take together. Relationships of this type are frowned upon in management handbooks and in most organizations. Neither party will discuss it, so legitimate questions remain about whether their relationship affects state policy or funding.
In the end Getler seems more concerned that the story was reported because it may have been pushed by a vindictive Comptroller Schaeffer than he was about the Governor's possible misuse of power.
Funny when the Governor's a Republican it takes a lot less to get the Post concerned about appearances of impropriety.

Posted by SoccerDad at July 4, 2005 03:11 PM | TrackBack