ANNAPOLIS — Maryland’s corrections secretary said Wednesday that ongoing investigations within his agency have uncovered allegations of corruption from within the state prison system extending outside of Baltimore.
Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services Sec. Stephen T. Moyer told the three-member Board of Public works about the investigations as he made his case for approval of a plan that would allow him to eliminate up to 63 human resources positions. Moyer said the eliminations were necessary in order to combat corruption and hiring practices that have allowed “bad actors” into the system.
“I can’t comment on open investigations,” Moyer said. “I can only say there will be cases that are beyond Baltimore.”
Moyer said more than 250 corrections employees had been arrested on various charges since 2013, arrests that had not been disclosed to the secretary’s office. Some who were convicted had worked out ways to serve sentences on weekends and continue to work for the state corrections system during the week, according to Moyer.
“Those 253 cases I spoke of who have been arrested and detained are from all over the state,” Moyer said, adding that he learned that two officers were allegedly involved in looting during the April riots in Baltimore due to an anonymous email with photos of the incident.
Earlier this year, the Hogan administration said that much of the impetus for the proposed job cuts in the corrections department was because of the indictment of nearly 30 corrections officers for alleged corrupt practices in the Baltimore detention facility, which the governor ordered closed.
Moyer’s revelation of additional corruption investigations came as employees who said they would lose their jobs pleaded with Moyer and Gov. Larry Hogan for a reprieve and questioned why they were being held responsible.
Sue Esty, the legislative director for the American Federation of Federal State County and Municipal Employees of Maryland, said the move to fire human resources employees was “scapegoating.” She called on Hogan and the board to not fire human resources employees and instead called for the firing of wardens, saying they were responsible for problems within the prisons.
“They need to clean house from the top not just from the bottom,” Esty said.
The board deferred again a decision whether to eliminate the 63 human resources positions after Hogan unexpectedly seconded a motion by Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot.
Hogan’s decision to go along with the deferral appears to signal that he did not believe state Treasurer Nancy Kopp would agree to the plan as currently proposed. Kopp expressed concerns about how older, mostly female, employees would be affected and said many would find it difficult to find other jobs because of their age.
The comptroller asked for three weeks, when the next board meeting is scheduled, to allow the department and the union to attempt to come to an agreement on the elimination of positions that could save some jobs, give preferential hiring status to some affected employees or even provide a severance package including four weeks of salary and health and dental benefits.
“These are people who have worked for us for decades,” Franchot said.