Harford legislators introduce bill to allow 'at-will' termination for liquor board staff

The Harford County delegation is working on bills to amend the employment policies of the Harford County Liquor Board following a lawsuit filed by the former board administrator to block potential personal action against her.

Eric E. McLauchlin, lawyer of former liquor board administrator Kathryn Thess, said he filed a complaint in Harford County Circuit Court on Aug. 7, 2013 stating Thess received correspondence summoning her to an "executive session hearing," referring to the section of the state code governing employment as an administrator.

McLauchlin stated in a letter that Thess was potentially being denied due process and that the purpose of the hearing was "unclear."

The lawsuit was eventually dropped in October after a settlement was reached between Thess and the liquor board.

State Sen. Barry Glassman, who represents Northern Harford, and Del. Wayne Norman, a former liquor board member, are both sponsoring bills in the Senate and the House that would allow the Harford County Liquor Board to terminate employees "at-will."

On Jan. 8, Norman introduced and submitted House Bill 9 to the Economic Matters Committee. During the Harford delegation meeting last Friday, Norman passed out copies of amendments to the original version of the bill he submitted earlier this month.

Under House Bill 9, the liquor board will be authorized to "alter an employee's position, duties, title or compensation under certain circumstances," as well as terminate "at-will" employees.

Glassman, who represents Northern Harford, said he and Norman are working to create comparable language in both versions of the bill.

Late Thursday afternoon, the senator clarified what is happening, explaining via e-mail.

"Delegates are doing at-will employment legislation," Glassman wrote. "On the Senate side, we will be doing a bill to clarify a few of the licenses. We will not be doing at-will bill on Senate side and will just take a look at their language when bill comes over from the House."

Vocational programs

The Harford delegation is discussing forming a task force to research vocational opportunities in the county to provide hands-on job training for youth who may not go to a two-year or four-year college.

Del. Richard K. Impallaria, who represents western Harford, said Harford County needs new vocational technology that will teach trades to kids that are not going to get into college.

"We've got to push schools and school boards to push vocational technology training in schools in Harford County to get kids involved in electrical and plumbing programs before they are college age," Impallaria said. "These kids are dropping out of school before they can even get to college.

Del. Susan McComas, who represents Abingdon and Bel Air, said she believes it is premature to say there is a need for vocational technology schools before talking to the school system and teachers working with kids who drop out.

McComas suggested forming a task force to look at others counties who are also working on the issue.

"We need to get different folks to the table and brainstorm," McComas said.

Impallaria said he wants to ensure that Harford County schools service the full community, not just ones who aspire to go to college.

Del. Donna M. Stifler said her husband did not go to college, but went to trade school. She said having a trade allowed him to start a business, and he can reach back and hire others, but so many young people don't have the necessary skills.

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