Corporal Seeks Court Order For Favorable Promotion List

January 05, 1992|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

A corporal in the sheriff's office is asking a judge to order Harford Sheriff Robert E. Comes to use a promotion list that would give thecorporal a stronger chance of being promoted to sergeant.

The corporal, James M. Harkins, argues in a suit filed in Circuit Court latelast month that he has been placed at a disadvantage for the promotion because he was shifted into three different jobs after he took office as a delegate.

Harkins, a Republican who represents District 35A, is asking the court to order the Sheriff's Office to use a list that would make thedelegate third in line for sergeant, rather than a list that places Harkins seventh in line.

But Comes wants to use the list with Harkins as seventh.

"I cannot, in good conscious and in fairness to other candidates competing, change the original decision," Comes said in a Dec. 23 memo attached as evidence.

Harkins asserts in the suitthat a series of transfers ordered by Comes since he took office as a delegate violate state law prohibiting service in the General Assembly from putting legislators at a "competitive disadvantage" in theirjobs.

Harkins, a Pylesville resident, was elected to represent District 35A in the state House of Delegates in 1990. Comes, a Democrat,was elected sheriff in 1990.

Before the election, Harkins was a supervisor at the department's Criminal Investigation Division, with 18 years of service.

The suit contends that after Harkins took office as a delegate last January, he was transferred to the Budget and Fiscal Services Unit because of the time he would miss while attendingthe legislative session. Harkins was then transferred to the Court and Correctional Services Bureau in May and then transferred to supervisor of the criminal laboratory in September.

The suit contends that the sheriff's office began the promotion process. The department was expected to promote three deputies to sergeant by July 1992.

Harkins and Comes discussed the promotion procedures on Nov. 21, at which time the sheriff said he needed advice from the Attorney General'sOffice to decide how to handle the promotions, the suit says.

TheAttorney General's Office later advised Comes that the department should use one evaluation -- from the Criminal Investigation Division supervisor -- because that is where Harkins would be working had he not been elected a delegate, the suit says.

That evaluation would place Harkins third on the promotions list, the suit says.

The attorney general's advice conflicted with a plan by the department administrators to use the average score of three evaluations from the supervisors of the units where Harkins had worked, the suit says. The average score of the evaluations put Harkins as number seven.

Harkins notes in the suit that the department generally promotes the top people on its lists. With three sergeant positions available, the delegatecontends he would not get the promotion unless the court orders the sheriff to follow the Attorney General's advice.

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