As the hierarchy of state jobs goes, he is really quiet high up the bureaucratic totem pole. He is the No.3 man in Maryland's Department of State Planning, carrying the official title "assistant secretry for planning coordination." His salary this year is set at $30,300.
The only problem is, he doesn't exist.
In the four years since the assistant secretary's job was created on paper, state planning secretry Vladimir Wahbe has never actually hired anyone to fill it.
That's not to say Wahbe has not been solicitous of this phantom official, however. Three years ago the planning department hired a secretary to help the nonexistent bureaucrat with his work. This year, department officials are requesting a $1,600 raise for their absent colleague.
It is all perfectly proper and natural to the bureaucrats, who for the life of them, cannot understand why anyone would be asking questions about such a perfectly obvious thing. Asked why his department bothers to include the position in the budget year after year, when it has never actually been filed, C. Allen Miles, the fiscal officer, responded:"There's no reason not to."
If you are worried that state tax dollars are going to pay for the man who ins't there, you can relax. The position is federally funded.
It is not clear whether the planning department ever has actually obtained any U.S. funds to pay the salary of the assistant secretary for planning coordination. When asked, the planning department's fiscal officer, C. Allen Miles said, "We don't obtain our federal funds on a position-by-position basis."
The way the state planners get federal money, Miles said, is s"to submit to the Department of Housing and Urban Development what is known as an overall program design . . . involving comprehensive planning elements, such as land use planning and housing planning . . .
"The budget (that accompanies federal grants) is applied to categories rather than positions," he added.
The assistant secretary's position originally was put in the budget because Wahbe felt that he needed a top-level official to coordinate the 1974 State Land Use Act. In asking the legislature to approve the still vacant position for a fourth year, Wahbe said, "funds have not been available so the position has been kept open.
"The need for the question still exists an we hope to obtain requisite federal funds."
"There's always a possibility that he would have enough federal funds on hand to fully fund the position," Miles added. " . . . why not leave the position (in the budget?)"
The planning department has been getting quite a bit of money from the federal government in the past few years, most of it in the form of grants from HUD. Last year, the office of the secretary - Wahbe's own immediate office where 29 people work - spent $44.390 in federal funds. The state planning department as a whole spent $1.9 million in fiscal year 1977.
None of this money was set aside to pay for the assistant secretary for planning coordination.
"Rather than use the funds to pay this salary - funds that were very badly needed elsewhere - well, again it's a question of priorities'" Miles said, explaining why none of the department's federal funds had been used to pay the assistant secretary's salary.
For the past four years, ever since this position has been created, legislative budget experts have been trying to get it eliminated. They have never succeeded.
This year, one budget analyst argued to the House Appropriations Committee that "it is apparent that this position is not necessary for the functions of the department." The Appropriations Committee left the money in the budget, anyway.
This year, after two years of futile efforts, the budget analysts finally were able to persuade the House committee that a nonexistent official did not really need a secretary.
Putting their objections somewhat delicately, the analysts said, "since the assistant secretary position has never been filled, the need for this secretarial support system is questioned."
Miles maintained that the department had had no trouble finding other things for this secretary to do, once she was hired two years ago."
"We've obviously shifted the usage of that clerical position," said Miles. "The secretary's assignment is really a secondary consideration. The primary consideration is the workload . . . When you request a position, you have to justify it on the basis of certain things, like where the person's going to work.
"That usage may change," he said. "We change the use of positions constantly,"