Maryland State Elections Administrator Linda H. Lamone ignored directives from the State Board of Elections, failed to respond adequately to local officials and recently told a job candidate that Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) is "out to get [me]," according to charges drawn up to support her ouster.
The complaint, which has not been made public, details about a dozen episodes dating from 2001 and forms the basis of the Republican-led board's effort to remove Lamone from the post she has held since 1997.
An attorney for Lamone, who is fighting the effort in court, dismissed the charges as "tiny little molehills" that do not meet the state's standards for removing an elections administrator.
By law, Lamone, a Democrat, can be removed only for "incompetence, misconduct or other good cause." The complaint contends that her conduct meets that standard, in part because of charges that Lamone poorly communicated with local officials. Her actions, the complaint argues, had "a detrimental effect" on the officials' ability to conduct "accurate elections."
Jay P. Holland, an attorney for Lamone, said that Lamone "unequivocally" disputes the charges and would "vigorously defend" herself. But Holland said that even if the charges were true, they would not be grounds to remove Lamone.
Election Board Chairman Gilles W. Burger, a Republican, could not be reached for comment through calls to placed to him yesterday. Other board members referred calls to Burger.
More than anything, the list of charges underscores the poisoned atmosphere that has developed between Lamone and the Republican majority on the five-member board to which she reports. The complaint, which was reviewed by The Washington Post yesterday, blames her for a "dysfunctional and untenable" relationship.
The charges, for example, describe a June job interview in which Lamone allegedly asked a candidate for deputy director of the agency few "pertinent" questions.
"Instead, the state administrator stated to the candidate that the members and chair of the state board did not know what they were doing, that the governor was 'out to get her' and that she intended to fight for her job," the complaint states.
In another episode in July, Lamone is said to have asked Burger to postpone a monthly board meeting so that she could testify before a congressional hearing that day.
In an e-mail, Burger told Lamone that he did not want to move the meeting, at which several citizens concerned about the state's electronic voting machines were scheduled to appear. Burger told Lamone that she "was not excused."
Lamone protested in an e-mail that, by law, the board has no "supervisory authority" over her. "Accordingly, I alone will determine the best and most effective way to carry out my responsibilities as the chief state election official," Lamone wrote, according to the complaint. She did not attend the meeting, the charges state.
About half of the episodes detailed in the charges involve Lamone's interaction with local election officials.
The complaint states that Lamone told local officials that she would not respond to a report about "lessons learned" from this year's presidential primaries and later told state board members that she considered it "whining."
In another episode described in the complaint, the Montgomery County elections director sought a written policy on how to respond to voters who refuse to use the state's electronic voting machines.
Lamone responded the same day, the complaint states, but did not make other counties aware of the policy until six weeks later.
The charges also cite instances in which Lamone filled a position in her agency during a hiring freeze and sought to give two employees a combined $7,619.15 in unused annual leave pay. A subsequent review by state personnel officials determined that the employees were not eligible to receive the money.
After reviewing the charges during a seven-hour meeting last week, the board voted to suspend Lamone and installed an acting administrator. Lamone won a temporary restraining order from a judge Tuesday and returned to work, pending another court hearing today. Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Ronald A. Silkworth will not consider the merits of the complaint, but the narrow legal issue of whether the board can suspend her.