After seven uneventful weeks of transition work, Maryland Gov.-elect Harry R. Hughes in the past two days has fired four of the state's 11 cabinet secretaries and informed six others that they will not know until next week whether they will keep their jobs.
Hughes, a former transportation secretary under Gov. Marvin Mandel, served with many of the cabinet officers whom he summoned one by one to his transition office yesterday and Thursday. But he was elected governor after promising voters "a new Maryland" free of the corruption of the Agnew and Mandel administrations, and by the end of the meetings had promised to retain only one department head.
Hughes' sudden, unorthodox ouster of what one veteran senator called "a lot of very old, very dear, and very trusted friends" -- after two months of silence -- angered several officials and some veteran legislators. They said Hughes had waited too long, then acted precipitously in firing experienced and competent administrators.
In particular, observers were surprised by the sudden departures of Henry G. Bosz, 53, who has spent his working life in state government and has been personnel chief since the cabinet was formed in 1969, and Vladimir A. Wabbe, 64, the state's planning director since the Agnew administration.
"It's going to take some time and some work to fill those positions," said Frank DeFilippo, a former aide to Mandel. "Bosz was the consummate bureaucrat. He knew every nook and cranny of the personnel department -- which is essential to that job."
Also fired were William Urie, 59, who was appointed chief of licensing and regulation by outgoing Acting Gov. Blair Lee III, and Robert J. Lally, 66, who has been the state's public safety director since the post was created in 1970.
So far, Hughes has decided to retain only Thomas V. Schmidt, secretary of budget and fiscal planning, according to Hughes spokesman Michael T. Canning.
That leaves six other department heads waiting for next week, some gloomily. Health Secretary Neil Solomon announced his resignation several weeks ago after Hughes promised to replace him during the campaign.
"I have no idea what is going to happen," said Transportation Secretary Hermann Intemann yesterday after meeting with Hughes. "But if I had to bet I would bet on the negative side, based on the comments I've heard and on where the decisions so far have been falling."
"There have been mixed views among us, but my own assessment has been that there would be a major change," said Human Resources Secretary Richard A. Batterton, who is also waiting. "It was that kind of campaign -- this kind of change was a major issue for Hughes in the election."
Both Intemann and Batterton said they were troubled by Hughes' long delay in making decisions on his cabinet.
"I sympathize with [Hughes'] situation," said Batterton, "but it would be nice to have an answer and get it over with. The delay takes its toll on the staff's certainty and sense of direction."
"The governor has prerogatives to do what he wants," said Intemann, "but he shouldn't have waited -- a lot of these people are on tenterhooks and they need to know what they are doing. If I were governor, I would have done it over a year instead of all at once."
Hughes, responded Canning, "has spent the last seven to eight weeks going over department briefings and thinking about what he wanted to do. And he thought the way to do it was all at once. To not have asked some of the cabinet members in would have left them in a very negative atmosphere."
Canning said Hughes had chosen some replacements for the vacancies he has created, and has scheduled a press conference Tuesday, apparently to announce them.
But some officials were not satisfied with Canning's explanation. "These are able state administrators," said Thomas V. (Mike) Miller, a leading senator in the Prince George's County delegation. "I can't believe that Harry Hughes is as able as these people."
"what he wants is change on the surface, something cosmetic," Miller charged. "And he will not have smooth sailing with many of the veteran senators if he intends to make these rampant wholesale changes that have no real point."
"It was not handled in the best manner," said Del. Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Baltimore City), the new House speaker. "I think there was fault on both sides. The cabinet secretaries probably should have submitted their resignations in advance, and Hughes should have told them earlier what he was thinking."
Hughes' actions are unprecedented if only because he is the first elected governor to come into office since the cabinet system was created by Mandel in 1969-70.
"The governor has the right to appoint his own cabinet," said Sen. James Clark (D-Howard County), the new Senate majority leader. "Normally cabinet officers would submit their resignations in advance. I think some of them didn't do it, and that's why Hughes had to call them in."
"Traditionally the outgoing governor has given the new governor a list of people he wanted taken care of," said De Filippo. "And bureaucrats would get judgeships or other patronage appointments. But it's been different this year. Nobody's on a list."
One source said the outgoing Lee suggested that Hughes retain at least two of the cabinet members, Schmidt and Intemann. So far, Schmidt has been retained and Intemenn is waiting.
Along with Intemann and Batterton, other waiting cabinet members are Y.D. Hance, agriculture; James B. Coulter, natural resources Herbert F. Cahan, economic and community development, and J. Max Millstone, general services.