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Public safety nominee gives hope to unions

February 04, 2007|by ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS - Prison unions hope a new public safety and correctional services secretary in Maryland will fix what Gov. Martin O'Malley labeled a "deeply troubled" department.

The head of a union representing correctional officers statewide sees good potential in O'Malley's pick, Gary D. Maynard, who has had high-ranking corrections positions in four other states.

In Iowa, Maynard required wardens to meet monthly with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); he met with the union quarterly, he said.

"That's a total switch from what we were used to under the Ehrlich administration," said Sue Esty, the interim director of AFSCME's Council 92 in Maryland, who briefly spoke with Maynard last week.

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O'Malley called Maynard "a proven leader" when he picked him to be secretary of Maryland's Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services (DPSCS).

The state Senate must confirm the nomination.

In his State of the State speech on Wednesday, O'Malley, a Democrat, called the state's systems of correction, parole and probation, and juvenile services "in urgent need of reform," despite having dedicated employees. All three are part of DPSCS.

A 'sense of mission'



Maynard comes to Maryland from Iowa, where he was corrections director for four years. He also has headed corrections in South Carolina and Oklahoma during a career of more than 30 years.

The governor liked Maynard's "long and distinguished record in corrections, improving systems in other states," and was impressed with "his sense of mission, his sense of purpose," O'Malley spokesman Rick Abbruzzese said.

Corrections was a tense issue during Republican Robert Ehrlich's four years as governor, with Mary Ann Saar as DPSCS secretary.

Two correctional officers were killed on the job in 2006 - including one in Washington County - and "inmate assaults have been out of control," yet communication from the department was "lacking" the last four years, Sen. James E. DeGrange Sr., D-Anne Arundel, said last week.

DeGrange chairs a Senate subcommittee that reviews the public safety budget.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, who also sits on the subcommittee, said rapport was "terrible" while Frank C. Sizer Jr. was commissioner of the Division of Correction under Saar. Educating employees in advance about new policies would have helped, Munson said.

Labor relations



Washington County's correctional officers know little about Maynard, said Ray Lushbaugh, a steward for Teamsters Local 103, which represents officers.

"We're hoping that someone is going to come in and not tie the correctional officer's hands from doing his job," Lushbaugh said. "This is the problem we had in the Saar administration."

Too often, when officers tried to enforce rules against inmates, "someone in the Saar administration would shoot us down," he said.

In an interview with The Herald-Mail last week, on his first day on the job, Maynard said he values labor's opinions and plans to visit every state prison to hear from employees.

In Iowa, he had the union review the department's budget as it was drawn up. The department and the union signed off before the budget went to the legislature, something that might have been unique to Iowa, Maynard said.

"I would hope that we could do something like that here, so we can get some consensus, so that we're not fighting each other ..." he said. "We're all interested in the same thing."

Reaching out to labor and keeping costs in check were two of Maynard's strengths, said Gary Dickey, a policy director for Tom Vilsack, Iowa's governor until last month.

While Maynard was corrections director, two inmates escaped from an aging prison, which he recommended replacing. He asked for a study of mental-health issues in the system after four inmates committed suicide in less than two years.

Iowa's new governor, Chet Culver, announced Jan. 8 that Maynard would return as corrections director. However, because of uncertainty when an administration changes, Maynard was looking for another job. He said that the day he was reappointed was the day he accepted O'Malley's offer.

Maynard said he followed Maryland's difficulties in the news over the last year.

"It's probably a very good system, but in a little distress right now," he said. "That's obviously the reason I ended up here - I think it's one of bigger challenges in the country today in corrections."

"Each place I've gone, I've sort of assumed that 90 percent of the job in the new state I already know," Maynard continued. The rest takes six to eight months to learn, he said.

Staffing struggle



Prison staffing remains a prime issue. O'Malley put 155 new correctional officer positions in his proposed 2008 budget, of which 73 would end up in Washington County.

That appears to be the first installment. Abbruzzese said the governor believes that around 500 new correctional officers are needed in the state.

Before Ehrlich was governor, the state added new officers each year, but under Ehrlich, jobs were cut, Esty said.

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