Internal e-mails show that Richard fought aggressively to obtain information about the list of qualified contractors on behalf of two companies that he identified as Ehrlich campaign supporters. The names of those competing for a spot on the list are required to be kept confidential.
His interest first surfaced in 2004, as Galindo and another engineer, Lionel Hill, were putting together the list, e-mails show. Richard wanted to know whether two companies -- Johnson Controls Inc. of Milwaukee and Constellation Energy Group Inc. of Baltimore -- were going to qualify, Galindo said.
"We were not even permitted to tell him who had applied to be on the list," Galindo said. But she said Richard "told me, 'I want to be able to tell Johnson Controls that they will be on the list.' "
In one e-mail, Richard complained to Galindo about "the secret process" and called it "a charade." That prompted Tom Genetti, an assistant secretary at the Department of General Services who helps oversee the program, to counsel caution.
"Mike should find out more about the process before calling what we do a charade," Genetti wrote. "It appears to me that there should be more concern about someone trying to influence the process that is done by the book."
After Richard clashed repeatedly with the two staff members overseeing the program, Galindo said he asked her whether she was loyal to him. "I said, 'I'm loyal to the state.' " Shortly after, she said, she was forced out.
Richard replied to written questions about the episode, saying, "I acted appropriately and no lines were crossed."
This week, the agency sent out a news release announcing that it had received a federal award for promoting the Energy Star program. The release does not note that next month, the agency plans a new radio and television advertising campaign to promote Earth Day, featuring Ehrlich with his 5-year-old son, Drew.
Staff researchers Lucy Shackleford and Bobbye Pratt contributed to this report.