More than 253 employees at Maryland's corrections department have been arrested since January 2013, and more than 200 of them are still employed, the department head told state officials Wednesday.
Stephen Moyer, secretary of the Maryland Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, spoke while seeking approval from the Board of Public Works to eliminate 63 jobs in human resources in the department. The move is needed to streamline a flawed hiring and disciplinary process, he said. Now, the department lacks administrative measures needed to prevent people with some "pretty outrageous" charges from working in the department, which has about 11,000 employees.
"My team and my staff are still involved in other investigations with the U.S. attorney's office," Moyer told the board.
The request comes as the department continues work to reform a system still reeling from rampant corruption at the now-closed, state-run Baltimore City Detention Center, where 24 correctional officers were convicted in a sweeping conspiracy case involving gang members.
Moyer declined to be specific when asked by Comptroller Peter Franchot whether other parts of the state's correctional system have problems as serious as the detention center.
"Mr. Comptroller, I can't comment on the open investigations," Moyer said. "I can only say this: there will be cases that are beyond Baltimore."
Gov. Larry Hogan, who also is a board member, said structural reforms are needed to address problems with department hiring and firing procedures.
"There's something wrong with a human resources department that hires those 250 people and that doesn't fire the 200 people," Hogan said.
The Republican governor, who announced the closing of the Baltimore detention center last month, said the department needs to make changes to recruit candidates for about 400 vacant correctional officer positions in the state. The center closed permanently on Tuesday after the last inmates and detainees were transferred out to other facilities.
"This is the next step to clean up the process, and I for one am whole-heartedly supportive of your efforts to clean up the hiring practices and the firing practices in this department," Hogan said.
But critics of the proposal say it would cause people who don't face charges and who have nothing to do with hiring practices to lose their jobs. The board ended up delaying a vote at the comptroller's recommendation to provide more time to better accommodate them.
"I don't begrudge the efficiency, the streamlining, the whatever-it-is, but you're firing the wrong people here," Franchot said. "Really, that's my sense. Or, a lot of the people you're firing are the wrong people."