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State Senator accuses union official of threatening correctional officers

Director of AFSCME Maryland, denied the allegations

said Shank was trying to push anti-union agenda

March 16, 2011|By DAN DEARTH | dan.dearth@herald-mail.com

State Sen. Christopher Shank has written a letter to the state correction commissioner asking for an investigation of a union official who was accused of threatening correctional officers Friday at the Maryland Correctional Training Center south of Hagerstown.

A union official, however, has denied the accusations against American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees representative Steve Berger.

Shank said in a telephone interview that he sent the letter on Tuesday to Commissioner of Correction J. Michael Stouffer in response to written complaints from witnesses who alleged that Berger browbeat correctional officers when they questioned the effectiveness of the union.

Patrick Moran, director of AFSCME Maryland, denied the allegations Wednesday and said Shank was trying to push an anti-union agenda.

"These allegations were made by someone with an agenda," Moran said. "Chris Shank has an anti-union agenda .... This is the same guy who told people to vote against our contract."

Berger served as a correctional officer for 28 years and wouldn't do anything to threaten the well-being of prison employees, Moran said. He said a majority of the officers at the prisons south of Hagerstown voted to form a union many years ago and still support it.

In the letter, Shank asks Stouffer to investigate what happened Friday when Berger spoke to correctional officers before they started working on the 4 p.m.-to-midnight shift.

Shank said he thought an investigation was appropriate to get both sides of the story.

 "I am very concerned about the allegations made in these letters regarding AFSCME Representative Steve Berger," Shank wrote.

"I find it completely unacceptable that Mr. Berger attempted to threaten and intimidate correctional officers, repeatedly used profanity and generally berated numerous officers during this incident," Shank wrote in the letter.

Erin Julius, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, said in an e-mail that prison officials had no comment.

Berger did not return three telephone messages seeking comment.

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