By Eric J.S. Townsend and Sarah Hoye
ANNAPOLIS – Popular Motor Vehicle Administrator Anne Ferro was canned by incoming Gov. Robert Ehrlich Monday, but was reinstated Tuesday after lawmakers took up her cause.
Ferro was among 30 people fired Monday by Ehrlich to make room for his own political appointments.
Her dismissal didn’t sit well with state legislators, and by Tuesday afternoon, Ferro had been invited to remain in her current role for the incoming administration.
Now everyone is happy: Ferro, the General Assembly – and Delegate Robert L. Flanagan, R-Howard, Ehrlich’s transportation secretary nominee.
Flanagan, whose own nomination is on shaky footing in the Senate, was left to do damage control for a move he knew nothing about.
“Things are moving pretty fast,” Flanagan said. “There was a judgment call that had to be made, and when I found out about it, asked for it to be rescinded. She is a very, very valuable asset.”
It didn’t hurt that Ferro has friends in the General Assembly.
“It is very meaningful to me to have everyone’s confidence … I still have a job and that’s the neatest fact of all,” Ferro told the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee Tuesday, tears in her eyes and voice quavering. “It is an awesome feeling. In the public sector you just want to do good work.”
Flanagan said he was criticized by “two or three people” who felt Ferro’s departure would hurt the state.
Delegate Carol S. Petzold and Sen. Ida G. Ruben, both Montgomery Democrats, approached him about rehiring Ferro.
Ruben is president pro tem and chairwoman of the Montgomery County Senate delegation. Petzold is vice chairwoman of the county’s House delegation. Neither liked the maneuver.
“She has more (than anyone) in her head about rules and regulations, and what we need to do,” Petzold said. “Anne has been very helpful and knowledgeable.” Ruben, too, defended Ferro to Flanagan. “To have given any thought to letting (Anne) go was politically unsound. No, that’s not the right word. Judgmentally unsound,” she said.
Flanagan wouldn’t say how Ferro’s pink slip slipped past him. Calls to Ehrlich’s transition office Tuesday weren’t returned.
The move created more controversy for a nominee already under fire. By law, the Senate must confirm political appointments, and Flanagan’s reputation as a partisan doesn’t sit well with Democrats.
But party leadership stopped short of dooming his political prospects.
“Democrats have not met as a caucus yet, and we have not done anything yet except to say publicly we wish to work well with (Ehrlich’s) political employees,” said Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., D-Calvert.
Flanagan’s decision also appeased members of the Senate panel, who got word of Ferro’s fortune at Tuesday’s briefing. “We were chagrined when we heard you had been axed, but are very pleased to hear that you will be staying on,” said Chairman Brian E. Frosh, D- Montgomery.