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MCI warden resigns

June 10, 2005|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

andrews@herald-mail.com

Accusing the Maryland Division of Correction of "dictatorial leadership," a "disregard for real public safety" and "an outright display of elitism," Joseph Sacchet said Thursday that he is resigning as warden at the Maryland Correction Institution-Hagerstown, ending a career of more than 30 years.

Sacchet, who has been warden at each of the three prisons south of Hagerstown, said the Division of Correction cut 82 jobs at MCI-H when he was prepared for 30 to 35.

It also has intensely scrutinized him and the prison, in what he believes was an attempt to force him to leave, Sacchet said.

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He sent The Herald-Mail a copy of a sharply worded letter that he said was his official resignation announcement.

Sacchet, who has been on paid leave for about three months, said during a phone interview that he was resigning - effective June 30 - through the newspaper "because my employees come first."

A spokeswoman for Commissioner of Correction Frank C. Sizer Jr. said Sizer would not comment until he read the letter. The Herald-Mail faxed a copy to Sizer's office Thursday afternoon.

Division spokesman George Gregory called a short time later to say that Sizer's only comment was that Sacchet had made a decision and Sizer wishes him well.

Gregory said Sizer had heard about Sacchet's resignation before he read the letter.

An attempt to reach Mary Ann Saar, Maryland's secretary of the Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services, which includes the Division of Correction, was unsuccessful.

Michelle Elzie, a Division of Correction assistant commissioner, whom Sacchet criticized by name, also could not be reached.

Sacchet, 55, said the first indication of tension in the DOC was when Elzie did a surprise inspection at MCI-H, a medium-security prison, in late February or early March.

He said she blasted him for petty violations, such as scuffs on steps and dirt on an ice machine. He said Elzie called MCI-H one of the filthiest prisons she had seen.

Sacchet said he took the comments to heart because he takes pride in the prison and he thinks he has made improvements there.

"There's only one person cleaner than me and that is Mr. Clean," he said.

Sacchet said he fixed the problems Elzie cited and was ready for a follow-up inspection, but she did not return.

Other tensions surfaced, he said.

Elzie turned down his request to have off March 17 so he could move into a new house, Sacchet said.

On March 21, Elzie questioned why Sacchet was driving to Jessup, Md., for a meeting that she hadn't known about and why he dropped his children at school first, he said.

He said her rebuke stung.

"She had me so shaken up, I was in tears," Sacchet said. He turned around and drove back to Hagerstown, he said.

Sacchet accused the DOC of micromanaging and not caring.

"They weren't sympathetic at all to the needs of the institution or of the staff," he said.

He also alleged that the DOC has tried to clear out some longtime employees and replace them with people they favor.

"I could see, from the beginning, the agenda was to get me out of the system," he said.

According to the state Department of Public Safety & Correctional Services' Web site, in July 2004, assistant commissioner became responsible for overseeing regions. The western region includes six prisons, including the three in Washington County, the Web site says.

Sacchet took over as MCI-H's warden in 2003. He previously was warden at Washington County's other two prisons - Roxbury Correctional Institution and Maryland Correctional Training Center.

Nancy Rouse has been acting as MCI-H's warden in Sacchet's absence.

Sacchet said he was told that Rouse was named warden Thursday. However, Gregory said that was not official.

Gregory also said he could not comment on Sacchet's leave, calling it a personnel matter.

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