Three high-level officials in the Maryland department that runs the state prison system, including its top intelligence officer, have been removed from office after being investigated for alleged misconduct.
The three officials in the office of Secretary Stephen T. Moyer were removed from the state payroll Tuesday, said Gerard Shields, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.
Shields said the officials were investigated after separate allegations of misconduct surfaced. He said state personnel law prevented him from providing details, including the reason for their departures.
He said their departures were not related to the indictments of 80 people this month in an alleged smuggling ring at the Eastern Correctional Institute in Somerset County.
The officials include Steven F. Geppi, director of the department's Investigation, Intelligence and Fugitive Apprehension unit.
Geppi is a former Maryland State Police colleague of Moyer. Moyer was brought in by Gov. Larry Hogan with the charge of rooting out corruption in the department.
Shields said the others are John A. Spiroff, director of the Intelligence and Investigative Division, and Debra Gonzalez Morin, head of the intelligence unit.
Shields said Spiroff and Gonzalez Morin reported to Geppi, and Geppi reported to Moyer.
The matter involving Spiroff was separate from the one involving Geppi and Gonzalez Morin, Shields said.
Geppi and Gonzalez Morin, contacted Wednesday night, agreed that their departures were not connected with Spiroff's. Both said they were fired without explanation after they had played integral roles in exposing corruption at ECI.
"They informed me that they wouldn't tell me what the allegations were or anything else," Geppi said. "I've been railroaded and not supported by the administration."
Geppi said he was fired by Moyer Tuesday and seven or eight other employees of the unit had been placed on leave. He said those employees are protected by the Correctional Officers' Bill of Rights. Geppi and Gonzalez Morin said they could be fired at will.
Gonzalez Morin said she was questioned by the Maryland State Police about alleged sexual misconduct in her division. Geppi and Gonzalez Morin both said the allegations were unfounded.
"This is a witch hunt," Gonzalez Morin said. "We made a lot of people angry because we fight corruption."
Spiroff could not be reached for comment, but Gonzalez Morin said he played only a minor role in the ECI investigation.
Moyer said in a statement that department employees reported alleged misconduct to him on Oct. 11. He said the employees were put on administrative leave and he asked the state police Internal Affairs Division to help conduct an investigation.
The secretary said he later received "an additional complaint on an unrelated matter."
"This is an active, internal investigation," Moyer said. "Upon its conclusion appropriate action will be taken. I will always take allegations of misconduct very seriously and will continue to demand the highest professional standards from our employees."
State records show that Geppi earned $109,000 a year. Spiroff earned $91,000; Morin earned $81,000.
The departures come three weeks after a federal grand jury handed down indictments against 80 inmates, correctional officers and others for an alleged racketeering scheme operating within the ECI, the state's largest prison. It was one of the largest single indictments in Maryland's history.
Officials touted the indictment as evidence of their dedication to rooting out corruption. They said there were open investigations in facilities across the state.
Shields confirmed that Geppi's unit was a participant in the ECI investigation. He declined to say what roles Geppi, Spiroff or Gonzalez Morin might have played.
Geppi, a retired Maryland State Police commander, joined the corrections department in March 2015 as director of investigations and intelligence. Spiroff was hired in November 2015. Shields said Gonzalez Morin was a 16-year department employee.
Unlike the state employees charged in the ECI indictment, Geppi and Spiroff were hired by the Hogan administration.
Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer said the department takes "allegations of misconduct very seriously."
"They are investigated immediately," he said. "If actions need to be taken as a consequence, those actions are taken immediately."
Geppi supervised several hundred workers in the intelligence, investigations, central hiring and inspector general's departments.
Spiroff is a former Baltimore County police captain who served as commander of the Criminal Investigations Division.
Moyer said Gary McLhinney, the corrections department's director of professional standards, will oversee the Office of Investigative Services in an acting capacity. McLhinney was chief of the Maryland Transportation Authority Police under Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.
Greg Marshall, the corrections department's deputy director of human resources, will serve as acting director of internal investigations.
Geppi said the firings and the suspensions would cause severe harm to the department's attempts to fight corruption in the state's correctional institutions.
"Governor Hogan ran on a platform of change in Maryland, but what they have done by decimating the intelligence division is ensure the status quo of corruption for the foreseeable future," he said. "It's never going to change."