Three senior courthouse employees filed civil rights complaints with the federal government yesterday as part of their fight against new county Clerk of Circuit Court Mary M. Rose's attempts to oust them from their jobs.
The fate of the three employees -- who, combined, have more than eight decades of experience -- was also scheduled to be discussed at a meeting this morning involving three administrative judges and Rose.
Heads rolled immediately after Rose took office Monday. The Republican, who upset Democratic incumbent H. Erle Schafer by a wide margin in last month's elections, told the chief deputy clerk and two of four assistant chief deputy clerks to resign or retire. The employees say she told them to make up their minds within an hour. They refused to resign.
The three say newly inaugurated clerks in the past have transferred employees -- moving chief deputies to lower positions, for example -- but have not asked for resignations.
The employees would be eligible for retirement benefits, Rose said. She added that the two other assistant chief deputy clerks will remain.
Rose said she based her decision on assessments made with the help of Donald Devine, a business and government management consultant she says she hired with her own money, and a transition team made up of a handful of area lawyers.
She described the move as "the first step in correcting what I saw as problems."
"I didn't just fire them for political reasons or to change the team. If they were competent, I decided to keep them," Rose said. And, she added, "There was more than incompetence taken into consideration." She said such factors as trustworthiness, performance and attendance were also considered.
She said she had candidates in mind to assume the positions but refused to discuss names.
Rose said she told the employees their terms ran "concurrent" to the previous clerk's and she did not intend to reappoint them.
"I said, 'My term?' I have 20-some years in. I'm not elected," said Donald C. Ward, an assistant chief deputy who was among the three told to resign. Ward, 53, said he has worked at the courthouse for 23 years.
"It was a shocker," he said. "The woman never talked to me at all."
Carroll L. "Bunky" George II, the chief deputy clerk under Schafer, also was told to resign. He complained that Rose gave him no reason for the demand, other than to say he no longer fit in her plans.
"It's the worst thing that's ever happened to me," said George, 54, who has worked in the courthouse for 29 years. "We've all been completely humiliated.
"It has to be political," he said. "I know no other reason." He said all three employees were members of a committee that worked to elect Schafer -- at the expense of former Clerk E. Aubrey Collison, a Rose ally.
"She came out and just shot her foot off," George said. "This place is in bad enough shape as it is without her losing career people."
The third employee, Bolton H. "Buster" Rankin, an assistant chief deputy who has worked at the courthouse 30 years, could not be reached for comment.
During the past election, voters approved a constitutional amendment moving the clerk of courts operations under the control of the state's Administrative Office of the Courts. As part of that move, Robert C.
Murphy, chief judge of the state Court of Appeals, wrote a letter ordering that no courthouse employees should be fired by incoming clerks, Ward and George said.
Rose also noted that she only has the power to recommend her staff, with final approval coming from an administrative judge. Ward and George say Circuit Judge Bruce C. Williams, the county's administrative judge, and Circuit Judge Raymond G. Thieme Jr., the administrative judge for the circuit that includes Anne Arundel County, are on their side.
Williams, Thieme, Murphy and Rose are scheduled to meet tomorrow to discuss the matter.
Ward said the judges told him to continue to work while the issue is ironed out.
The three men filed complaints yesterday with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's Baltimore office. George and Ward said they charged age and gender discrimination in their complaints.
George said they made those charges because there was no box to check for political retaliation.