When the Reagan administration took over last week, the secretaries on the diplomatic council staff were asked to report bright and early at 8:30 a.m. Wednesday for interviews.They were told that the new folks wanted to do right by them and might have jobs for some of them in the Reagan White House.
As it turned out, the interviews didn't begin until 1 p.m. and a few of the secretaries were never interviewed at all. Those who were, found themselves being quizzed about their political affiliations, their opinions of President Reagan and their attitude toward loyalty to the boss.
White House deputy of policy development Ed Gray, who divided the interviews with his deputy Ron Frakum, found that most of the secretaries were career-minded and listed their political affiliation as "independent." They also told him that they would be loyal to whomever they worked for. Nonetheless, all except four of the 17 were fired at day's end, including four who had worked in the Ford White House. The other four secretaries, including two Ford administration holdovers, were asked to stay on a week and may be kept longer.
Gray says he didn't know at the time he was firing the secretaries that they were entitled to two weeks' pay, which they now will receive. He also says the interviews "weren't intended tok be a political litmus test." But that's exactly what they seemed to those who went through the interviewing process.
"It was very humilitating, to say the least," said one of the fired secretaries.
The interviews are the culmination of the White House-cleaning that began with a Jan. 15 memo to Carter chief of staff Jack Watson from Reagan chief of staff James A. Baker III. The memo included lists of employes to be released, those "under consideration for retention" and those to be retained for transition purposes only. Baker told Watson "we would appreciate it very much" if he would arrange for resignations from everyone else, included all exempted employes of the Council on Environmental Quality, Council of Economic Advisers, Office of the Special Trade Representative and Council on Wage and Price Stability.
And he included a sample letter of resignation, in case anybody didn't know how to write it.