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Correctional Officers' Bill of Rights approved by committee

April 08, 2010|By ERIN JULIUS

ANNAPOLIS -- In a hasty vote Tuesday evening, the Senate version of a Correctional Officers' Bill of Rights was passed out of committee by a unanimous vote.

The Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, of which Sen. Alex X. Mooney, R-Frederick/Washington, is a member, approved the bill with 16 amendments.

Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, worked with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) to craft Senate Bill 887. He has reviewed the amendments, and he said he doesn't think any of them substantially changes the substance of the bill.

The corresponding bill in the House of Delegates, HB 1090, hasn't moved out of the House Appropriations Committee, according to records available online.

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Munson believes movement by the Senate bill will push along the House measure, he said.

His bill probably will go before the full Senate for final approval Friday, Munson said.

"I think this gives correctional officers a much fairer way of being judged. It's as simple as that," he said.

The bill does two things.

First, it lists certain rights of correctional officers and outlines procedures through which the officers can be investigated and disciplined.

It also sets up a hearing board consisting of correctional professionals.

Under the bill, officers who are fired, demoted or suspended without pay for more than 10 days may request a hearing before the board before any disciplinary action is taken.

The board's decision is binding, but may be appealed. Any disciplinary action the board recommends would not be binding.

According to an amendment approved by the committee, before a correctional officer is terminated, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services must approve the dismissal. The officer's past job performance must be considered before a penalty is imposed, according to the amendment.

The hearing's board's disciplinary recommendation may be changed if the warden or warden's appointee reviews the entire record of the hearing board's proceedings and meetings with the officer to allow him or her to be heard on the record, according to the amendment.

Decisions by the hearing board could be appealed in the circuit court of the appropriate county, just as Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) decisions may be appealed now.

One of the amendments specifies in further detail the arrangement of the hearing board.

For sergeants and below, one of the members of the board must be a member of the bargaining unit and of the same rank, and one must be a lieutenant or higher.

For lieutenants and above, one of the members of the board must be of equal or lower rank, and another of equal or higher rank.

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