ANNAPOLIS -- Gov. William Donald Schaefer came to the defense of a loyal aide last week, which is commendable.
Then, he blamed the press for what has become an embarrassing situation for everyone concerned, which is typical.
"I can't tell you my contempt," Schaefer blustered, for the newspapers that criticized what certainly appears to be a cozy job for longtime Schaefer lieutenant Chuck Fawley.
Fawley was Schaefer's driver for 15 years when the governor was mayor of Baltimore. He then made the trip to Annapolis, where he became manager of Government House, the governor's residence that Schaefer declines to live in. But that's not the cozy job in question.
Last month, Schaefer's secretary of state, Winfield M. Kelly Jr., asked the Board of Public Works to approve four new jobs so that his office could monitor the state's slot machines, once again legal for charitable organizations on the Eastern Shore. The board agreed.
Kelly, in his effort to expand his largely ceremonial job, had neglected to tell Treasurer Lucille Maurer and Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein (Schaefer was absent that day) that his office had no authority over slots. Kelly said Eastern Shore sheriffs wanted the help, though he can point to only one who specifically asked for it. He forgot to say that only two of the new jobs were for slot machine monitoring.
And he neglected to mention that Fawley would get the key job overseeing gambling. Fawley is no longer needed at Government House now that Schaefer's companion Hilda Mae Snoops has been named the state's "official hostess," and in fact Fawley has been watching the slot situation since this summer.
Fawley told the Baltimore Sun that he didn't know much about slot machines or the state's charitable organization laws, but he was willing to learn. The Schaefer loyalists who inhabit the governor's string of second-floor State House offices seemed truly shocked at the resulting barrage of criticism about the situation from editorial writers, and were protective of the genial Fawley.
While his aides scrambled for a solution, Schaefer went on the attack. He insinuated that The Sun had tricked the "youngster" -- Fawley is 36 -- into making embarrassing statements. He scolded reporters for their interest in "four jobs." He railed against the "vicious" editorials that he said "embarrassed a young man and his family."
Schaefer is no doubt correct that Fawley is embarrassed -- the editorials were pretty harsh -- but the governor and especially Kelly are to blame. And the ending to this is no prettier than the beginning.
It turns out that in the law passed by the General Assembly legalizing slots, only minimal reporting requirements are necessary, and those are to be made to Goldstein. So Goldstein wrote a letter turning over the job to Kelly. Then Schaefer reversed field and said that Kelly would not be involved and that he was asking U.S. Attorney Breckinridge L. Willcox to perform the task. Willcox declined.
Schaefer now says that Fawley will stay in Kelly's office and work on "intergovernmental relations."
But even that may not please everyone. House Appropriations Committee Chairman Charles J. (Buzz) Ryan (D-Prince George's) said legislative leaders have some uneasiness about the creation of jobs in Kelly's office, especially since the legislature said no to Schaefer's plan during the last session for more "intergovernmental relations" positions.
"It's the same kind of thing" legislators have battled with Schaefer about before, said Ryan. "We don't care whose mother-in-law or brother he puts in there but we care about the process."
The week before Schaefer got mad at the press, he said the situation had been "badly handled" and was "very embarrassing to me." He probably should have let it go at that.