EDITORIAL:

Beware the Governor's Executive Order

GOV. BOB EHRLICH'S EXECUTIVE ORDER 01.01.2003.13:

Public Corruption and Misconduct

WHEREAS, Honest and honorable conduct in the performance of State business, free of the existence or perception of any corruption or other misconduct, is the primary goal of this Administration;

WHEREAS, Instances of prior questionable conduct, identified during transition, and thereafter, have arisen and continue to appear to arise, even to the present time;

WHEREAS, While the vast majority of Maryland State employees and contractors are entirely honest, upright and forthright in the conduct of State business, all departments and agencies must be vigilant to detect and deter any criminal or unethical conduct; and

WHEREAS, A clear and responsible path for investigation of possible criminal or unethical conduct must be established.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, ROBERT L. EHRLICH, JR., GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF MARYLAND, BY VIRTUE OF THE AUTHORITY VESTED IN ME BY THE CONSTITUTION AND LAWS OF MARYLAND, HEREBY PROCLAIM THE FOLLOWING EXECUTIVE ORDER, EFFECTIVE IMMEDIATELY:

A. All departments and agencies of this State shall promptly inform Chief Counsel to the Governor and the Assistant Attorney General of the Department or Agency, or, if none, the Deputy Attorney General in charge of the Criminal Investigations Division of the Office of the Attorney General, of any instance of possible criminal or unethical conduct by any employee or contractor of this State. Agencies with special internal investigative units shall proceed with their internal investigations and report as required herein at the close of the particular investigation.

B. Chief Counsel to the Governor and the Deputy Attorney General in charge of the Attorney General's Criminal Investigations Division shall promptly confer and jointly determine whether the matter should be referred for criminal investigation and prosecution, and, if so, to which law enforcement agency: the State's Attorney of the particular subdivision, the State Prosecutor, the Criminal Investigations Division, or the United States Attorney.

C. If Chief Counsel to the Governor and the Deputy Attorney General in charge of the Attorney General's Criminal Investigations Division determine that a referral to a designated law enforcement agency is appropriate, they shall promptly undertake such action and then monitor the course of the matter on a periodic basis.

D. All departments and agencies shall require each employee to report to the Secretary or Director of such department or agency as to any arrest of such employee, as to each legal proceeding in which such employee is involved as a party, and as to such other legal process in which such employee is involved as the Secretary or Director of the particular department or agency shall designate.

E. Chief Counsel to the Governor shall report periodically to the Governor on the subject matter of this Executive Order.

F. This Executive Order succeeds and supplants prior policies on the subject matter of this Executive Order.

GIVEN Under My hand and the Great Seal of the State of Maryland, in the City of Annapolis, this 28th Day of April, 2003.

On May 5, Gov. Bob Ehrlich made public an executive order he had issued the week before that sets up new rules that are ostensibly for the "protection" of state employees.

These public servants are now being required to inform on themselves to their department heads, letting it all hang out about their sorry personal lives. Divorce? Custody battle? Being sued by a disgruntled neighbor? Photographed by the cops while taking part in a political demonstration? Going bankrupt?

Just Imagine the discussions that will ensue.

"Mr. Smith? Got a minute? I need to tell you my dog bit my neighbor's kid, and I'm being sued in small claims court."

"Sorry to hear that, Mr. Jones. I'll make a note of it in your file. Any chance that neighbor might come on these premises with an AK-47 and get off a few rounds?"

"I don't think so, sir. My neighbor's a blind paraplegic."

"Oh. Well, maybe there's no danger, then. Just have to check, you know, do my job. Don't want to get fired for failing to take all this down, you know. Got to assess our risks. Is there anything else you need to tell me?"

"Not about myself, sir. But I have to say I'm worried about Mary in the accounting office. I hear she's been having a rough patch in her marriage, and there's talk of a divorce. But don't let on that you heard it from me, okay?"

"Don't worry. This is for everyone's protection. I'll check it out."

"Yes sir. Will you note that I've been cooperative in my file, sir?"

"Yes, indeed. And let me know how the dog bite problem works out."

"Sure will. Oh--and sir--I had a question. The staff kind of wants to know if they're going to be told any of this. You know, if they're in any kind of danger from anyone in the office, like if somebody might come in here and, you know, blow our brains out?"

"Well, there are confidentiality issues here, you know. Let's just say that we'll be watching everybody closely who's got an issue. And we'll take appropriate steps to protect the others."

"That's great, sir. And another thing, sir. It just occurred to me. If somebody in your position has a problem, like getting smacked around by her husband or something, who would she report to?"

"Well, I hadn't really thought that much about it. Hasn't been an issue. But I guess a supervisor would report to a higher-up, and so on up the line."

"Up to the Governor?"

"Yes, I suppose so."

"And is the Governor going to tell the public every little thing that's personal in his life that might affect the security of his job? I mean, I guess that would follow, right? I mean, all of us voters are sort of like his bosses, don't you think? Shouldn't we be told if he gets romantically involved with an assistant or something? Or if he's got a lot of political debt that, you know, might compromise his decisions?"

"You know, I'm going to have to check into that and get back to you. Nice talking with you, Mr. Jones."

"Sure thing. And I think I'll be coming in to talk to you again real soon, sir, because I have a big overdue credit card bill that might make me get a little upset."

"The door's always open, Mr. Jones."


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This story was published on May 19, 2003.