Attorney General Stephen H. Sachs delivered a quick knockout punch today to the State Athletic Commission careers of Frank DeFilippo and Neil Solomon by ruling that former Acting Gov. Blair Lee III illegally appointed them to the patronage posts shortly before he left office.
The attorney general said that DeFilippo, a longtime aide to former Gov. Marvin Mandel, and Solomon, the former state heath secretary, should be removed from the agency that oversees boxing and wrestling events because there were no vacancies on the five-member commission at the time Lee made the appointments.
Lee claimed at the time that he had the power to expand the membership of state boards and commissions to add more consumer representatives. He said the two former state workers fit the description of consumer representatives. Sachs, in his opinion, said that such "open-ended" appointments should be the "narrow exception, rather than the rule."
His decision effectively removes DeFilippo and Solomon from their $2,500-a-year posts and prevents them from collecting additional state pension benefits.
The appointments, which Lee made during his last month in office, were roundly criticized in newspaper editorials and by many state politicians who said Lee was abusing his patronage powers by finding last-minute jobs for old friends to get them back in the pension system.
Lee himself expressed doubts about his action, saying in a farewell interview: "If I'd known then all the flak I was going to take, I would have decided it wasn't worth it."
DeFilippo, who was Mandel's chief of staff for more than nine years, frankly admits that he asked Lee for an appointment so that he could get back into the pension system. Solomon has said that his pension situation had nothing to do with his appointment to the athletic commission. In a letter to a Baltimore newspaper today, Solomon said he would actually lose money by staying in the pension system.
"I wanted to get on the commission because I really thought I had something to offer," said Solomon, whose long career as health secretary was filled with controversy. "There aren't too many physicians who are interested in boxing." Solomon was a Golden Gloves boxer in Canton, Ohio, in the late 1940s.
DeFilippo, who accepted Sachs' decision with good humor, said that he brought "the perspective of a crowd" to the athletic commission. "I was a trumpet player, not a boxer," he said today. "I never got into fights because I was always protecting my emboushur (the mouthpiece of a wind instrument)."
The diminutive former Mandel aide said he joined the state pension system late in his public career -- only three years ago -- but paid $16,000 to receive benefits for the entire time he was in the administration. Sachs' decision he said, would have him a little money: "I just cancaled my subscription to Ring Magazine."