ANNAPOLIS -- Legislators are trying again to strip the state personnel secretary's power to make final decisions in employee grievance cases -- and they're trying to make the effort veto-proof.
By a unanimous vote, the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee yesterday approved legislation that would vest final authority in certain grievance proceedings with the state's Office of Administrative Hearings.
State employee unions have complained that while employees often get favorable rulings in grievances from hearing officers, Personnel Secretary Hilda E. Ford too often reverses them.
"We're getting many adverse decisions [from Ms. Ford], all in favor of management," complained William Bolander, executive director of Council 92 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. "The Office of Administrative Hearings is not utopia by any means, but it is better and more fair."
The General Assembly passed similar legislation last year, but Gov. William Donald Schaefer vetoed it.
This year, the Judicial Proceedings Committee added a new wrinkle: It made the bill an emergency measure. If it's enacted before the final week of the 90-day session, Governor Schaefer will have only six days to veto it. Otherwise, it automatically becomes law.
If he vetoed the bill under those conditions, the General Assembly would still be in session and in a good position to vote to override the veto.
Secretary Ford could not be reached for comment yesterday, but David S. Iannucci, the governor's chief legislative officer, said it is still the administration's position that "the Department of Personnel should have the final say in personnel decisions."
Those who are pushing the bill, he added, are merely "changing the rules because they are losing by the old game."
The bill's scope would include removals, demotions, reports of unsatisfactory work or conduct, suspensions and denial of pay increments.