2 vets win fight over job firings State police to rehire Desert Storm soldiers

March 08, 1992|By John Rivera | John Rivera,Staff Writer

Two Desert Storm veterans -- who after being called away from their state police academy classes for military service, came back to join the ill-fated 103rd class that was laid off in last fall's budget cutbacks -- have won their jobs back.

This week, the state police will offer to rehire and train the men to be Maryland state troopers. The state agency made the decision to give Corey D. Ricks and Samuel G. Garrett Jr. their jobs back late last week after the two men filed a grievance with the federal government, claiming they were entitled to be restored to the positions they held before the war.

Both of the men have since found work at other police agencies: Mr. Ricks with the Annapolis Police Department and Mr. Garrett with the Mass Transit Administration in Baltimore.

Mr. Garrett said he was happy with the news. "I'm happy where I am, but I'm looking forward to going back with the state police," he said.

But Mr. Ricks reacted more warily.

"I told them there are going to be some terms for me to come back," said Mr. Ricks, who added that he wants back pay and his seniority restored. "I should not have been fired in the first place, and by reinstating me, they admitted that."

Mr. Ricks, Mr. Garrett and two others, Michael Duears of Frederick and Michael Thompson of Lexington Park in St. Mary's County, were all in classes in the state police academy when they were called away for military service.

All entered the 103rd academy class last July after returning from Desert Storm service. They and their 25 classmates were fired the day after their graduation in November.

But only Mr. Ricks and Mr. Garrett challenged their firing, claiming that under the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act, their jobs should have been preserved.

The grievance procedure began before the class was dismissed, when Mr. Ricks, who served with the Maryland National Guard as a military policeman in Saudi Arabia, complained to the National Guard headquarters in Baltimore. An officer there called Fred Samuelson, who is a voluntary ombudsman for the Defense Department based in Montgomery County, in late October.

Mr. Samuelson tried to resolve the situation by going directly to Public Safety Secretary Bishop L. Robinson, who told him he would resolve the situation. But four days later, Mr. Samuelson received a call from State Police Superintendent Elmer H. Tippett, who said that after consultation with an assistant

attorney general assigned to the state police headquarters, a determination was made that the four veterans were not entitled to special treatment and would be dismissed with the rest of the class.

Mr. Samuelson then forwarded the case to the Veterans' Employment Training Service, an arm of the U.S. Department of Labor, for further action in early November. Gary D. Lobdell, an assistant state director of the organization, said he tried to pursue the matter on behalf of Mr. Ricks and Mr. Garrett with the same assistant attorney general, but after several months, got nowhere.

So he wrote to Maryland Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr., and had his answer within 10 days: Once the details were worked out, the former troopers would have their jobs back.

"The attorney general was asked to provide advice on what the law required," said Assistant Attorney General Stuart M. Nathan, who worked on the case for Mr. Curran.

"The law was not absolutely clear, but we've agreed that the better position was that they be re-employed," Mr. Nathan said.

Mr. Robinson drafted a memo instructing the state police to re-employ Mr. Garrett and Mr. Ricks, and they received it on Friday.

The state police plan to provide the two men with more details this week on when they might come back and what they would do, said Capt. Michael Barnes, an aide to Colonel Tippett.

Normally, Mr. Ricks and Mr. Garrett would spend three or four weeks in the academy for additional training and would then be assigned to a barracks to ride for several months with an experienced trooper. "And then they'll be on their own," Captain Barnes said.

The timetable for their return has not been set, "but it will be in the very near future," Captain Barnes said. "And we certainly are welcoming them back."

Mr. Duears and Mr. Thompson would probably be rehired if they chose to pursue it, Captain Barnes said.

Mr. Garrett said he enjoyed his work at the Mass Transit Administration and was grateful to the agency for hiring him after he was fired from the state police.

"But the state police is what I set out to do, so that's what I really want to do," he said.

But Mr. Ricks said he is not sure he is coming back. Life in Annapolis has been good, so far.

"I make more money now with the Annapolis Police Department," Mr. Ricks said. At minimum, he said he wants the wages he lost between Nov. 4, when he was fired, and now.

"I just moved down here, so I don't want a barracks on the Eastern Shore or in Western Maryland. So I hope they can accommodate me."

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