ANNAPOLIS, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s Senate president said Tuesday that he believes a senior state transportation official should be relieved of his leadership role because of an “appalling lack of professionalism and substantive understanding” about a law that creates a scoring system to rank transportation projects in the state’s funding process.
Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller, in a letter obtained by The Associated Press, urged Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn to move Deputy Transportation Secretary James Ports out of his position.
“The citizens of this state deserve employees operating at senior levels who actually know what they are talking about and have the ability to deal with other government officials with mutual respect and civility,” Miller, a Democrat, wrote to Rahn about Ports.
Doug Mayer, a spokesman for Gov. Larry Hogan, said Miller “has a long and very colorful history of writing impulsive but always rhetorically enjoyable letters with people he’s deemed to offend him.”
“We all know that Senate President Miller and his colleagues are doing everything possible to run away from a bill and the law they championed and forced upon the state, but taking his frustrations out on a civil servant doing his best to implement the law is way over the line,” Mayer said.
The transportation bill was one of the most contentious in this year’s legislative session. Hogan, a Republican, vetoed the legislation, but the Democrat-controlled legislature overrode his veto before adjourning in April. Much of the disagreement in recent weeks has centered on when the law actually takes effect.
Ports has written letters to county officials in recent weeks warning them that the law threatens local projects because of the administration’s reading of provisions requiring the scoring system to be put into effect this year. Last week, Ports said the attorney general’s office made a different interpretation, giving the administration discretion to implement the law next year instead.
But Miller wrote that the bill provided a delayed implementation to give the department time to carry out the regulations. He added that Ports didn’t take the time to understand the law and sent “snide, false, and alarming missives to local officials” without regard for its provisions.
“Whether Mr. Ports’ purposeful behavior was intended to be vindictive, to incite anger, or was out of an embarrassing lack of knowledge, none of this is acceptable in state government,” Miller wrote.
Hogan told a conference of local officials last weekend that the measure threatens many local projects as well, and the governor said he would push to repeal the law next year.
(Copyright 2016 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)