During his campaign for governor, Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) said that if he won and was able to move his family to Annapolis, it would be like "the Clampetts moving to Beverly Hills."
Although the allusion to the old television show "The Beverly Hillbillies" was tongue-in-cheek, the Ehrlich clan certainly is moving into some fancy digs. Exhibit A: the bathrooms.
In recent weeks, state taxpayers coughed up about $123,000 to renovate two bathrooms in the second-floor living quarters of the Governor's Mansion. They have new wallpaper, new sinks, new paint and other accoutrements to enhance personal hygiene.
The repair work was one reason Ehrlich, his wife, Kendel, and their 3-year-old son, Drew, waited until mid-February to move in.
Ehrlich aides took pains to point out that the bathrooms had been slated for renovation since 1999, when the Department of General Services decided it was time to spruce up the restrooms for the first time since the mid-1960s and estimated the cost at $75,000. Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) balked at the idea, saying he didn't want to vacate the quarters temporarily while construction was going on.
So the interior decorators and contractors had to wait until Glendening moved out. But as is the case with many home remodeling jobs, complications arose, aging pipes and asbestos among them.
Adding to the expense: the need to add closets, which were lacking in both bathrooms. Drew Ehrlich's bathroom also needed a tub.
The cost of the renovations caught the eye of the ever-vigilant House Appropriations Committee recently, which dispatched two state delegates, Norman H. Conway (D-Wicomico) and Joan Cadden (D-Anne Arundel), to make a personal inspection. The work passed muster with them, Ehrlich aides reported.
Slots and Secrecy
Some lawmakers were miffed last week when Ehrlich assigned two of his minions, legislative lobbyist Kenneth Masters and communications director Paul E. Schurick, to brief them on the status of his slot-machine bill instead of giving the briefing himself.
So they became even more miffed when they learned that Ehrlich found the time to give a personal update on slots to members of Maryland's horse-racing industry Monday at a gathering at the Loews Annapolis Hotel.
Ehrlich's staff took pains to keep that meeting secret, neglecting to list it on the governor's public schedule that day and failing to inform the news media. The schedule, distributed to State House reporters, declared that the governor had "no public activities" that day.
A Washington Post reporter showed up at the hotel anyway, but Greg Massoni, Ehrlich's deputy director of communications, tried to shield the governor from inquiring minds as Ehrlich walked out of the lobby, telling his boss: "Don't worry, we'll take care of this." Ehrlich magnanimously intervened and fielded a question or two, but was soon cut off by his staff.
Massoni said there was nothing secret about the governor's meeting with racetrack owners, gambling company officials and horse breeders.
"It was a decision made at the last minute," Massoni said. "It's the first time he met with them. We wanted to take him in and get him out."
There was no shortage of Ehrlich administration staffers in attendance. On hand were chief of staff Steven L. Kreseski and Donald J. Hogan Jr., one of the governor's legislative lobbyists, plus the usual security detail.
On top of that, all four of the governor's press secretaries were there: Massoni, Schurick and their deputies, Shareese N. DeLeaver and Henry P. Fawell.