Prison agency wins appeal on firing records supervisor

November 21, 1990|By William F. Zorzi Jr. | William F. Zorzi Jr.,Sun Staff Correspondent

ANNAPOLIS -- The Maryland Division of Correction has won the latest round in its concentrated efforts to fire the former prison records supervisor who signed release papers for inmate John F. Thanos, the rapist and robber later charged with killing three teen-agers.

After an appeal by prison officials, a hearing officer with the state Department of Personnel overturned an earlier back-to-work order for John P. O'Donnell, the ex-records supervisor who was a correctional officer at Eastern Correctional Institution until his Oct. 4 suspension without pay for Thanos' release.

"I'm devastated," said Mr. O'Donnell, who received the ruling yesterday. Maintaining he had been made the scapegoat, Mr. O'Donnell vowed to appeal to the Circuit Court.

Margaret T. Embardino, an assistant to state Personnel Secretary Hilda E. Ford, said the administrative law judge who ordered Mr. O'Donnell back to work at the Somerset County prison Oct. 17 erred.

Ms. Embardino stated in a Nov. 16 order that the judge, Eleanor A. Wilkinson, made her decision based on information not substantiated in testimony at a hearing last month.

Ms. Wilkinson stated in her ruling that the Divison of Correction knew of his alleged errors in calculating Thanos' sentence in May but did not act to discipline him.

But Ms. Embardino found that there was nothing to suggest that headquarters knew of the Thanos' release as early as May.

Thanos was freed April 5 after Mr. O'Donnell calculated his release date based on a new Division of Correction policy on applying so-called "good time" credits to inmates' sentences that overlap.

Corrections officials have acknowleged that headquarters personnel approved the release of inmates with the same sentence arrangement as Thanos in a telephone conversation with Mr. O'Donnell the day before his release. But they say an official called Mr. O'Donnell three weeks later and told him release dates should not be calculated that way.

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