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State corrections workers to keep jobs

An open gate awaits a guard as he walks down a hall in the now-closed men's section of the Baltimore City Detention Center, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, in Baltimore. The last inmates were moved out of the decrepit men's section of the detention center on Tuesday, state officials said, completing the closure of the notorious facility.
An open gate awaits a guard as he walks down a hall in the now-closed men's section of the Baltimore City Detention Center, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015, in Baltimore. The last inmates were moved out of the decrepit men's section of the detention center on Tuesday, state officials said, completing the closure of the notorious facility. (Patrick Semansky / Associated Press)

More than two dozen state corrections workers once targeted for layoffs will be able to keep their jobs, Gov. Larry Hogan's administration said Monday.

The human resources employees were caught up in an effort by Public Safety Secretary Stephen T. Moyer to root out corruption in the scandal-plagued corrections system.

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But the plan to eliminate their positions met resistance from union officials and the workers, who said the workers had nothing to do with rampant corruption at the now-closed Baltimore City Detention Center.

On Monday, Hogan and his administration backed away from the proposal unveiled in July to eliminate 63 positions in the agency's human resources division, a move that would have wiped out dozens of vacant jobs, restructured the division and given pink slips to at least 27 people across the state.

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While Moyer still plans to revamp the division, those workers will instead be given other posts with salaries and commutes commensurate with their current jobs.

"Governor Hogan ordered me to go back and look at it, and see if there was a different way we could accomplish the same thing," Moyer said in a conference call with reporters. He promised that efforts to root out corruption would continue.

"We just have to figure out who got through the cracks in the hiring system and remove them from working in the department so that everyone feels safe in our facilities," Moyer said.

Moyer, who has led the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services since Hogan took office in January, has characterized the human resources division as a broken bureaucracy responsible for hiring and failing to fire workers who let the Black Guerrilla Family take over the Baltimore City Detention Center, where 24 correctional officers were convicted in a conspiracy case.

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As evidence of the bureaucratic failure, last month Moyer offered this statistic to state officials considering the layoffs: Since January 2013, 253 employees in the state corrections department have been arrested. More than 200 of them are still employed, he said.

But many of the workers targeted for layoffs were front-line employees who had no say over hiring or firing. Instead, their jobs were to dole out advice on how to take bereavement leave or roll over sick time in a retirement account, said Jeff Pittman, a spokesman for the AFSMCE council that represents the workers.

"If they hired and fired people and they weren't doing their jobs, that would be one thing," Pittman said. "But that's not what these ladies do."

Pittman and union leadership praised the new plan. Moyer "can still revamp his department, but now folks who were doing a good job and weren't really his concern are not unfairly scapegoated."

Moyer told reporters that three of the top four administrators in the department have left this year and he has a new staff in place. He has reorganized the investigative division in hopes of rooting out any corruption in the agency.

He said the agency has also restructured some hiring practices. Job applicants now give fingerprints when they apply, instead of being screened for a criminal record months into the hiring process.

Last month, the Board of Public Works suggested Moyer reconsider the layoff plan when it became clear that the employees involved weren't responsible for hiring or firing corrections officials.

At the time, Comptroller Peter A. Franchot called the plan "a clear case of scapegoating."

Union representatives cautioned that laying off the workers under the public banner of rooting out corruption would make it tough for them to find new jobs, amounting to giving them a bad reference.

Hogan's spokesman said the governor was swayed by the testimony at the meeting, which included two women who each worked for the state for more than 20 years and had nothing to do with the Black Guerrilla Family scandal.

Hogan considers the new plan "a compromise solution that would address the ongoing HR challenges in the department, while also ensuing that corruption could be dealt with in a comprehensive manner," spokesman Matthew A. Clark said.

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