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Hogan, board defer Md. corrections job cuts

(Flickr / Ken Mayer / “Prison bars” / CC BY 2.0 / cropped, resized and tonal adjustments)

(Flickr / Ken Mayer / “Prison bars” / CC BY 2.0 / cropped, resized and tonal adjustments)

ANNAPOLIS — The three-member Board of Public Works delayed action on a proposal to cut 63 positions from the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The proposal would represent the first job cuts under Gov. Larry Hogan, who agreed with the decision to defer the Thursday vote.

Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot called for the deferral as soon as it was brought up, and Hogan agreed without any additional discussion.

“The comptroller wanted more time to carefully consider the item given the ramifications,” said Michelle Byrnie-Parker, a spokeswoman for Franchot.

Byrnie-Parker declined to comment on whether Franchot had concerns that the proposed job elimination would be the first in a series of additional job cuts proposed by the governor as part of an effort to reduce state spending by 2 percent across the board.

The proposal is expected to be voted on by the board, which also includes Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, at its Aug. 5 meeting.

A spokesman for the governor said he could not immediately comment on why Hogan went along with Franchot’s request to delay the vote on the proposed job eliminations by three weeks.

Del. Maggie McIntosh, D-Baltimore City and chairwoman of the House Appropriations Committee, said she didn’t necessarily disagree with attempts to re-organize the department but said she was concerned about the elimination of employees with seniority.

“The unions should be concerned,” McIntosh said. “I’m not saying it’s bad. The intent is not bad, but it does put me in the posture of wait and see if there are other departments that undergo similar re-organizations.”

The proposal calls for the elimination of 63 human resource positions — nearly half of 139 total positions including contract and temporary employees — and would save the department $3 million or roughly two-tenths of a percent of the department’s budget.

Under the proposal, the corrections department plans to reorganize its human resources operations. Currently, staff are located at each correctional facility in the state and a centralized facility at the Reisterstown Plaza.

A decentralized system would be replaced with regional hubs located in Cumberland, Hagerstown, Jessup, Baltimore and the Eastern Shore. The majority of the work would be performed in the Reisterstown Plaza office.

The agency, in a proposal sent to the board, said the “reorganization will provide for unity of command, centralized direction and authority, and uniformity of employee processes.”

A Hogan spokesman said Wednesday that the reductions were, in part, an effort to clean up the department, which saw nearly 30 corrections officers indicted in federal court on various counts of corruption over the last two years.

Union officials said the proposed cuts raise concerns that Hogan will lay off additional state employees as a way of reaching a goal of a 2 percent across-the-board budget reduction goal mandated by the governor earlier this year.

Patrick Moran, president of AFSCME Council 3, said it’s wrong to use the federal indictments to justify the elimination of human resources positions.

“These people had nothing to do with that,” Moran said. “This was a breakdown in management. A lack of discipline and a lack of management oversight.”