ANNAPOLIS, OCT. 26 -- The Maryland Department of General Services circumvented state regulations and spent nearly $27,000 to build a private restroom for department Secretary Earl F. Seboda, a move that Gov. William Donald Schaefer said today "went too far, too fast."
But, calling Seboda "one great secretary," Schaefer said he has no intention of firing him or any of the other officials involved in the $26,598 project. He said he will warn Seboda not to let such things happen again. "I could fire people, or I could tell him: 'You did the wrong thing.' And that's what I'm going to do."
"He put in a wall, he put in a potty," Schaefer said. "Big deal."
Schaefer's comments at a news conference came in response to a story reported in the Baltimore Sun today that the department violated state regulations for construction contracts when the restroom was built for Seboda.
Schaefer described Seboda as "just a great secretary" and said his aides rushed the project through so they could get the restroom built while he was on vacation.
The job was handled as an emergency project not requiring competitive bidding even though the only emergency was to get the work done while Seboda was gone, Seboda's aides acknowledge.
When the contract was submitted to the Board of Public Works, headed by the governor, for approval after the work was completed, it was not listed as an emergency contract.
The project also was listed in the Maryland Register, a state publication, as "Renovations to the 14th Floor" and as "Alterations necessary on 14th floor restroom."
John C. Reese, a department official who sent the notice to the Maryland Register, said the wording made it sound as if work was being done on an existing restroom. "I wasn't exactly trying to draw attention to it," he said.
Seboda, whose agency handles state construction projects, said he wanted the private restroom because he often works from early morning to late at night.
"I am not about to change my clothes and shave in a public restroom," the newspaper quoted him as saying.
Seboda's office is located less than 50 feet from a public restroom for men. State records show his new private restroom includes a toilet, vanity and a tile floor.
About $14,000 was spent on asbestos removal because it was necessary to drill through an asbestos-covered concrete deck to make plumbing connections. The job was done twice because the first drilling, which cost about $6,000, was too close to electric cables and the plumbing connections had to be made at a second location.
Schaefer said Seboda works very hard and that his aides "wanted to surprise him when he got back."
"They did it wrong," he said.
Schaefer said he will tell the employes in the agency that "you should have played by the rules, and you didn't. Don't do it again."