Blair Lee has been quietly but actively changing the palace guard at the state-house in Annapolis.
By the time Lee moved across the hall Monday from his former quarters as lieutenant governor into the governor's suite, eight top aides of deposed ex-governor Marvin Mandel were gone also.
While the acting of Mandel's lieutenants, the most visible and controversial advisers to the convicted governor and gone, either as the result of an outright firing, as in the case of Frank Harris, Mandel's legislative liaision officer, or from transfers or promotions.
Of Mandel's three lobbyists to the General Assmebly, only appointments secretary Maurice R. Wyatt remains.
Mandel's deputy legislative officer, Ronald "The Schlepper" Schreiber, was named by Lee last week to be director of the health claims arbitration office. Schreiber, who has been acting director of the medical malpractice administration since its creation by the 1976 legislature, took a $7,000 a year pay cut, to $25,000, to remain in state government.
Gone from the governor's outer office is Grace Donald, Mandel's longtime private secretary, who, after an extended vacation, will work part-time in the governor's field office in Baltimore. Two other Mandel secretaries, Mildred Hromadka and Jane Horton, will stay on with Lee. Moving across the hall with Lee were his administrative aide, Judith A. McClure, and his new special assistant, one-time Washington Star reporter James B. Rowland.
Also missing from the executive suite are Alan M. Wilner, former chief legislative officer, named by the Lee to a vacancy on the Maryland Court of Special Appeals; Frederick I. Dewberry, executive assistant, who became executive director of the regional plan commission on Oct. 1; Michael S. Silver, who now heads the property tax assessment appeals office, and Jack B. Kussmaul, who retired as administrative officer education.
Frank A. DeFilippo, chief of staff and news secretary, resigned early this year, although DeFilippo, as president of a Baltimore advertising agency now has gubernatorial candidate Lee as a client.
Major survivors from the Mandel era include Thomas J. Peddicord Jr., who moved up from assistant to legislative officer; administrative officer Hans F. Mayer; C. Elizabeth Bucker, assistant legislative officer; William A. "Box" Harris, executive assistant, and Thom L. Burden, news secretary.
Completing the transition to the top spot, on Sunday, Lee spent his first night as a resident in Government House, the 54-room governor's mansion on State Circle that will be his official residence as acting governor Ava M. Harrison, Lee's secretary as lieutenant governor will serve as his personal secretary at the mansion.
Lee's wife Mathilda, or Mimi, as her friends call her, will join him in residence later this week. She remained at their Silver Spring estate a few extra days, saying she had to fulfill social and civic commitments, although it is an open secret that the independent Mrs. Lee, unlike Jeanne Mandel, would rather remain out of the political spotlight.
TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE OR TOO MUCH, TOO SOON - Apologists for Mandel, and there are still plenty of them around, like to point to the miserly $25,000 annual salary that is paid to Maryland's chief executive as justification for Mandel's acceptance of clothing, trips and other gifts during his nine years as governor.
But now that Mandel has been removed from office, convicted on charges that included accepting gifts that permitted him to live in the style befitting a governor, a state salary commssion is planning to incrase the salary.
The current occupant of the ofice is amillionaire who hardly needs the money. Lee, however, defends the proposal on principle, if not for principal. He believes the governor should be paid "between $50,000 and $60,000" noting that the lieutenant governor (now a vacant office), comptroller, attorney general and treasurer all are paid nearly $45,000 a year, while their boss, the governor, gets only $25,000.
While it appears that the commssion will recommend a hefty increase in the governorr's salary, final action is being stalled while commission members wrestle with the worry that whatever they do will eb overshadowed by a side issue - that the pension of former governors is tied to the salary of the current governor.
Like his other living predecessors. Mandel receives half of the salary of the current governor, or $12,500 a year now. If the commission propose increasing the governor's salary to $50,000 for example, that would mean that convicted felon Mandel would get a $12,500 a year raise, to $25,000.
Acting Gov. Lee admits tht the Law "is a little extravagant in that regard," but he hopes that the extra regard," but he hopes that the extra benefits Mandel would get from salary benefits Mandel would get from salary reform "will not become the controlling concern."