4th fare-thefts arrest expected
City police today were expected to arrest a state Mass Transit Administration security officer, one of four MTA employees suspected of stealing at least $500,000 from fare boxes over two years.
A city grand jury last Thursday indicted three other MTA employees on theft and conspiracy charges in connection with the scheme, police said.
Police arrested them yesterday and identified them as Wanda Barnes, 27, of the 6600 block of Moonflower Court; Arvelle Cole, 42, of the 400 block of Gwynn Ave.; and Bette McKnight, 46, of the 1000 block of Vine St.
Police said Barnes also was charged with perjury while testifying before the grand jury.
Barnes and McKnight are security guards, and Cole is a "vault puller," whose job is to remove fare boxes from buses, police said.
Police said an audit of fares received at MTA offices at 201 S. Oldham St., 2226 Kirk Ave., and 1515 Washington Blvd. turned up large amounts of missing money from fare boxes and led to an investigation by MTA and Baltimore police.
Each fare box contained between $700 and $1,000 in coins and currency, police said.
After the apparent theft was discovered, police installed hidden closed-circuit video cameras at the three sites and reportedly recorded the opening of the fare boxes and the stealing of money.
All four suspects are to be arraigned July 1, police said.
Social workers picketing:
City social workers were to picket today outside offices on Oliver Street, where they say the lack of air conditioning has made the building intolerable to work in for more than a month.
The Baltimore Department of Social Services says it has arranged to have the air-conditioning system repaired and offered employees a chance to relocate temporarily to other offices in the city. DSS, which leases the building, hopes to move to a new site eventually, said spokeswoman Sue Fitzsimmons.
"Everyone agrees it's a terrible thing to have to come to work when it's hot," said Fitzsimmons. However, she said, the landlord has balked at overhauling or replacing the old system. Repairs will cost DSS about $50,000, and the agency plans to deduct that amount from its rent.
"They're putting Band-Aids on it," complained Bill Bolander, executive director of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the union that represents the DSS employees. He said the union has been complaining about the heat since May 3, when members sent a petition to DSS director Shirley Marcus.
"Employees tell me windows are completely sealed shut," he said. "The only way to get any air is to open the door and that's a security risk."
AFSCME wants administrative leave for employees with documented respiratory problems and also wants employees relocated as soon as possible, Bolander said.
But how hot is it? Bolander and Fitzsimmons both said no one has documented the temperatures inside the building at 312 E. Oliver St.
Lobbyist becomes gov's aide
Dennis "Denny" Donaldson, a former speaker pro tem of the House of Delegates who represented Prince George's County, is leaving his post of state Department of Transportation lobbyist to work as a special assistant to Gov. William Donald Schaefer.
Also, T. Eloise Foster, the governor's assistant legislative officerwill move to the Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning, where she will serve as assistant secretary and run the fiscal planning unit, the governor's office announced today.
Donaldson will assist the governor on transportation and other legislative issues, said Page Boinest, a Schaefer spokeswoman. Donaldson, 53, was elected to the House in 1973 and served on a number of committees until he retired from elective office to work as a paid lobbyist on legislative matters for the state Department of Transportation last year.
Donaldson is likely to continue his work on transportation revenue issues, particularly Schaefer's push for an increase in the gasoline tax.
Foster will change jobs June 19, replacing David Falk, who left in April. While in the legislative post, Foster specialized in bills dealing with education, drug enforcement and public safety.
Heat changes school hours
Anne Arundel County
Anne Arundel County public schools were to close two hours early today because of the heat.
It is the second day in a row the school system shut its doors early because of the hot and humid weather. School officials had not decided whether to close schools early tomorrow, the last day of school for students.
Temperatures were expected to be in the mid-80s today, but cooler temperatures were expected by tomorrow, with a high about 80.
High schools had been opening at 9:45 a.m. and closing at 2 p.m. under the prepared exam schedule. However, high school students now will report to school at 7:30 a.m. and be dismissed at noon.
Afternoon sessions for kindergarten and Early Childhood classes were canceled today. Morning kindergarten sessions closed no later than 11:15 a.m.
Elementary and middle schools opened at regular times and were to close two hours early.
The crowded detention center
The crowded Baltimore County Detention Center held 500 inmates this week for the first time in its nine years history, and Sheriff Norman Pepersack said a new 216-bed addition due in 1994 likely will be full the day it opens.
The detention center, on Kenilworth Drive in Towson, was built in 1982 to hold 326 prisoners.
Pepersack is seeking $400,000 from the County Council, mostly from the county surplus, to pay for extra costs associated with the spiraling number of prisoners in the county penal system. The system, which includes the detention center, a jail built in 1956 and work-release facilities, held a record 828 inmates earlier this week, Pepersack told the council during a work session yesterday.
Activists argue their appeal
Seven Maryland peace activists, three of them from Taneytown, are awaiting a ruling from the Pennsylvania Superior Court on an appeal of their convictions for trespassing at a top-secret military command center that could be used during a nuclear war.
The demonstrators, dubbed the "Site R Seven," were arrested Aug. 9, 1989, for blocking the main gate to Site R, the Alternate Joint Communications Center, deep in Raven Rock Mountain on the Maryland-Pennsylvania border. They were convicted in 1990. Pennsylvania's second-highest court heard their arguments yesterday. A group member said they had a constitutional right to protest but would not say whether she was optimistic that their convictions would be overturned. The group was demonstrating to mark the 44th anniversary of the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan, at the end of World War II. The protesters plan their eighth annual demonstration at the site Aug. 3 and 4.
"It's a nuclear war command facility. This particular one is where the Joint Chiefs of Staff supposedly would be taken to direct that war," said Yvonne Small, 46, of Taneytown. "I think that planning for a nuclear war is an act of genocide."
In April 1990, in Adams County Court of Common Pleas in Gettysburg, Pa., the seven were convicted of trespassing. Four were fined $400, three were fined $700 and all were sentenced to do community service.
The other six protesters were: James M. Small, 50, and Wayne Cogswell, 58, both of Taneytown; Albert Donnay, 32, and Dr. Gwen L. DuBois, 40, both of Baltimore; Lauralee Humphrey, 57, of Lutherville; and Charlene Knott, 42, of Timonium.
More street time for cops
Harford County officials are planning a one-stop police processing center in Bel Air that they say will streamline arrest procedures, giving officers more time on the street.
The $80,000 center, said to be the first of its kind in Maryland, is to be on the second floor of the county Sheriff's Department headquarters at 45 S. Main St.
Currently, police making an arrest in the county must transport defendants to several different locations, a process that takes officers off the street for as long as four hours. With the new center, proposed to be open in November, the arrest process may take only an hour in one location.
"This way the officer will drop them off and be right back on the street," said Sheriff Robert E. Comes.
At the new center, defendants will be booked, fingerprinted, photographed and taken before a District Court commissioner.
New safety specs for bridges?
In the wake of a $5.3 million settlement won by an Elkridge woman who was injured when a bridge collapsed, Congress is considering new standards for contractors building bridges.
Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., said the proposed new standards emphasize that contractors, and not the federal government, are responsible for insuring the safety of bridge construction projects funded by the Federal Highway Administration. Mikulski added the provisions into the 1991 transportation bill.
The safety specifications come less than a week after a U.S. District Court in Baltimore approved a settlement for Kimberly Sue Andersen, 32, who suffered permanent brain damage and physical injuries when a Md. 198 bridge being rebuilt over the Baltimore-Washington Parkway collapsed early Aug. 30, 1989, as she was driving to work.
Four contractors have agreed to pay for the settlement, but the U.S. government says it will not contribute to the agreement.
Henry E. Weil, one of Andersen's lawyers, maintained yesterday that the Federal Highway Administration shared the blame for the collapse because it was responsible for monitoring the project. He said he would not pursue any further action to force the FHA to contribute to the settlement, however.