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  •   Dollars and Sense of Humor

    By Scott Wilson and Amy Argetsinger
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Thursday, December 17, 1998; Page M01

    Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening called Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan this week to reassure him that the county's huge funding request for the coming year will get serious consideration.

    Last week, Duncan (D) came away cold from his first formal meeting with Glendening (D) since the November election. Duncan aides said the governor seemed to be giving Duncan a hard time over his $200 million request for state aid next year. Glendening quizzed Duncan about the Clarksburg jail and, either joking or not, tweaked Duncan about his request for $50 million for school construction next year.

    Duncan, who has had a prickly relationship with Glendening, took offense. He described the meeting as "business as usual," which for these two means contentious and uncomfortable. Duncan expected more after working hard for Glendening during a brass-knuckles reelection campaign while some other leading Democrats sat on the sidelines or worked against him.

    But apparently the tone of the meeting was all a big misunderstanding. On Friday, a day after the hour-long session in the governor's office, Glendening's chief of staff, Major F. Riddick Jr., called Duncan to calm the waters. A day later, The Post published a story about the meeting, and Duncan's phone rang again Monday morning.

    This time it was Glendening.

    "He called to say he'll do everything he can for us," Duncan said during a meeting with reporters this week. "It was reassuring. It was very encouraging."

    Glendening has been celebrated for his gun-control legislation, anti-sprawl program and work on behalf of the Chesapeake Bay. He has never been praised for his deftness with a joke.

    Glendening aides said after the meeting that some comments Duncan took to be barbs were actually efforts at humor. And on the phone Monday, Glendening expressed "surprise" over The Post story because he thought the meeting had gone well.

    That's fine with Duncan, a prideful politician himself, who is presenting a long wish list to the governor this year, attempting to cash in on his current political capital. It may not last long.

    In the meantime, Duncan is hoping Glendening will let him laugh all the way to the bank with a big haul from the state.

    Schaefer Fills In With Ease

    Former Maryland governor William Donald Schaefer attended last week's annual announcement of state public school test scores, and it was clear the new comptroller-elect hasn't missed a beat after a four-year absence from politics.

    Glendening couldn't make the news conference because of a scheduling conflict with an environmental conference. But Schaefer (D) filled the gap with such remarkable ease that one can't wait to see what happens when the next formal ceremony calls both present and former governors of Maryland into the same room.

    The news at the heart of last week's ceremony was less than stellar--though overall scores are up, more than half of Maryland's elementary and middle school students still failed to earn "satisfactory" grades on the test of basic skills.

    But the Department of Education nonetheless welcomed the scores with much panache in its Baltimore headquarters--balloons, flowers, a violin ensemble, a pastry buffet and a pink spotlight that imparted a healthy glow to the parade of prominent education supporters.

    And then there was Schaefer, happily holding court before a festive crowd of 200.

    It was a friendly crowd for the former governor: He appointed Superintendent of Schools Nancy S. Grasmick and many of the sitting board members, and it was under his watch that the state launched its massive school testing program.

    He took the time to acknowledge his old friends and colleagues in the crowd. Del. Howard P. Rawlings (D-Baltimore) was hailed in classic Schaefer-speak as "a great man. . . . He would make a great mayor. . . . But that's not an endorsement!"

    And he found a warm audience for his own bizarre sense of humor. In a lead-in to Schaefer's speech, Grasmick described him as the titan who shaped the Inner Harbor, built new highways and championed school reform.

    He's "a visionary," she said, a leader, and a downright "good person."

    Schaefer took the podium, and, after a one-beat pause, said, "And I don't even like her!"

    Ba-da-bup! The audience roared.

    Sauerbrey Staffer Moves On

    Republican Ellen R. Sauerbrey's main mouthpiece during her gubernatorial campaign, Jim Dornan, has landed a new position as chief of staff to Virginia Lt. Gov. John H. Hager (R). A native of Bowie, Dornan ran U.S. Rep. J.C. Watts's (R-Okla.) first campaign in 1994, was chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Richard Burr (R-N.C.) and served at both the National Republican Senatorial Committee and Congressional Committee before signing on with Sauerbrey. During her campaign, he became deputy campaign manager running the political operation day to day.

    That should hold him in good stead for Hager, who is contemplating a gubernatorial bid in 2001. Dornan won't be lonely should that happen. St. Mary's political consultant Dick Leggitt, who worked for Sauerbrey and is a guru to Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R), also has signed on with Hager.

    A Full Cabinet

    Glendening has filled out his Cabinet for his second term. Last week he named Peta N. Richkus as secretary of the state Department of General Services. She succeeds Gene Lynch, who has moved to the State House second floor as Glendening's deputy chief of staff.

    He replaced David S. Iannucci, who moved to Baltimore to become deputy secretary of the state Department of Business and Economic Development. Got all that?

    Richkus, 51, has been vice president of sales and marketing for the York, Pa.-based engineering firm of Buchart-Horn Inc. She lives in Baltimore and as general services secretary will oversee $800 million in contract administration, 5.7 million square feet of state facilities and other administrative and financial services to support state government.

    Legislators Get Ethics Counsel

    William G. Somerville, a lawyer for the state Department of Legislative Services since 1979, has been appointed to the new job of ethics counsel for the state legislature.

    House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr. (D-Allegany) first proposed the idea during last year's General Assembly session after a senator was expelled and a delegate resigned after allegations of ethical, um, imperfections. (For the record, the senator was Larry Young, who on Monday was indicted on bribery and extortion charges.)

    A special study commission, headed by former House speaker and current U.S. Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin (D) (who, just to get the news out there, hasn't ruled out a gubernatorial bid in 2002) agreed with Taylor and recommended that the legislature hire an ethics counsel. Somerville served as counsel to the Cardin commission, is counsel to the Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics and is widely respected by lawmakers.

    As counsel, he will provide confidential advice to help legislators keep their public and private businesses from colliding and creating conflicts of interest.

    Taylor and Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Prince George's) selected Somerville. Miller called him "quiet and impeccably honest." The legislators will love the quiet part, at least.

    Staff writer Daniel LeDuc contributed to this report.

    © Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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