Veteran Md. worker charges state with retaliatory transfer He was sent to Hickey, where jobs are to run out

August 03, 1991|By Michael K. Burns

Kenneth Walker has worked as a youth supervisor for the state Department of Juvenile Services and its predecessors for almost 20 years, the past six in the downtown Clarence Mitchell Courthouse.

On July 25, he was "permanently" reassigned by the department to the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School in Parkville. But "permanently" means only another month: all Hickey employees will be terminated when the reformatory is taken over Sept. 1 by a private contractor.

The transfer was made to effectively fire Mr. Walker and to circumvent the state employee's rights to contest an illegal termination, charged George Gay of the Maryland Classified Employees Association.

"It's unbelievable, the word is callous," said Mr. Gay, who planned to file a grievance for Mr. Walker with the state.

Mr. Gay said that Alfred I. Murphy, deputy DJS secretary, told him that Mr. Walker was "reassigned because of difficulties with his supervisor and that he would 'be history' within 30 days."

A spokeswoman for Mr. Murphy, who was unavailable yesterday, confirmed that he had permanently reassigned Mr. Walker to Hickey during a meeting July 25.

There was "absolutely no attempt to circumvent the state [employee] merit system," said spokeswoman Jacqueline Lampell. Reasons for the transfer were explained to Mr. Walker, she said, but remain confidential because "divulging that information could be harmful to him."

The department does not plan to reassign other employees ZTC permanently to Hickey, Ms. Lampell said; any staff shortages there will be met by temporary assignments of personnel, she said.

More than 300 state employees at Hickey have not yet found other jobs or filed for retirement, Ms. Lampell said. The 396 authorized state jobs at the school for male delinquents will be abolished Sept. 1, when Rebound of Colorado begins management of the facility. The private firm is expected to hire a number of those state workers, she added.

Mr. Walker, 42, blames his transfer on his clashes with his supervisor at the courthouse, Jessie McNair, who is also president of another state employee labor union, Local 3167, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

"A person shouldn't lose his job because of personal differences," Mr. Walker said. "I'm always there to do my job." Mr. McNair declined to discuss the matter.

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