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House passes Correctional Officers' Bill of Rights unanimously

April 13, 2010|By ERIN JULIUS

ANNAPOLIS -- The House of Delegates, during the final day of its legislative session Monday, gave unanimous approval to the Correctional Officers' Bill of Rights after a bit of debate between local lawmakers.

The vote was on Senate Bill 887, which was sponsored by Sen. Donald F. Munson, R-Washington, and had been passed by the Senate, 44-2.

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.

Del. Christopher B. Shank, R-Washington, who is challenging Munson for his seat in the upcoming election, offered an amendment to the bill. Shank last year sponsored a similar bill.

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The amendment Shank offered was aimed at ensuring that correctional officers have their choice of representation during the hearing process when they face an investigation or disciplinary action.

"They should not have their rights taken away as to who represents them," Shank said on the House floor.

The amendment was defeated, 36 to 102.

Del. John P. Donoghue, D-Washington, was the only local lawmaker to vote against Shank's amendment. He also stood twice in opposition to the amendment.

Shank said he believes the bill, as drafted, requires the correctional officer in question to choose the representation of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the bargaining unit for the state.

His amendment would allow a correctional officer to choose "any responsible representative" of his or her choice, Shank said.

Shank later cited language related to the correctional officer's "employee organization" that appears several times in the bill as that which would indicate only AFSCME would be allowed to represent the correctional officer.

Del. Galen R. Clagett, D-Frederick, sponsor of the corresponding bill on the House side, spoke against the amendment.

A correctional officer would be allowed to have someone from another union --such as the Maryland Classified Employees Association --represent him or her, Clagett said.

It was of paramount importance to pass the bill cleanly, without any amendments, so that it reached final passage Monday, Clagett said.

Shank countered, saying, "If we're going to pass something, we need to do it right."

Donoghue also spoke against the amendment.

"My senator (Munson) is very proud of his work on this issue," Donoghue said. "I hope you all reject this amendment," he said. "Don't allow an amendment like this to ruin it for correctional officers."

Del. Andrew A. Serafini, R-Washington; Del. LeRoy E. Myers Jr., R-Washington/Allegany; Del. Charles A. Jenkins, R-Washington/Frederick; and Shank voted for the amendment.

Donoghue voted against the amendment.

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