Donald K. Wallace, the controversial administrator of the Prince George's County Health Department, resigned under pressure on Wednesday after state health officials, who hire local health administrators, said they wanted him removed from the post because of "unsatisfactory" job performance.
"People got tired of what I had to say," Wallace said yesteday. "I can say that in the time I've been here, I've said what I have to say and haven't backed up one damn inch."
Wallace quit Wednesday after both the Prince George's County Council and county executive, who have fought constantly with Wallace during his seven-year tenure, asked the head of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to fire him, said Council Chairman Parris Glendening.
County Executive Lawrence Hogan and the council have repeatedly requested Wallace's resignation but it was not until Wednesday, when a new state law took effect making it easier to remove a health officer, that state health officials could act.
The new law, which was passed at the request of several county governments, allows the state health department to hire and fire local health officers with the concurrence of the local governments. Under the old law, the health officer was part of the state's civil service system and could be fired only after extensive documentation of incompetence or criminal behavior.
Wallace said yesterday that he had expected to be forced out of his job once the new law went into effect because of his longstanding conflicts with Hogan and the council.
In the last three years, Wallace and the council have tangled over his efforts to close several county pools against the council's wishes, his refusal to sign off on the council-approved mental health program for the county and his decision to phase out a clinic the council wanted kept open.
Last week, when state officials asked Wallace to attend a meeting with health department head Charles Buck, Wallace said he began cleaning out his office. On Wednesday, he met with Buck in Annapolis who told him, "Look, we want your resignation," Wallace said. At that point, the county health administrator said, he sent a handwritten letter of resignation effective immediately.