2 ex-sheriff deputies sue old bosses Suit alleges plot to punish them

December 07, 1992|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,Staff Writer

Two former sheriff's deputies have filed an $800,000 suit alleging the county's former criminal justice coordinator and former sheriff conspired to fire them because the sheriff didn't like them.

Mark Gillen and John Moran, the deputies, allege that former Sheriff William R. Huggins was out to punish both men after he learned Mr. Gillen had decided to run against him in the September 1990 primary election.

Both Mr. Gillen, 30, of the 100 block of Carvel Beach Road in Carvel Beach, and Mr. Moran, 29, of the 1000 block of Kings Road in Pasadena, eventually ran for sheriff, according to their Annapolis attorney, Alan R. Legum.

The Circuit Court suit names as defendants Mr. Huggins, Francis J. Zylwitis, the former criminal justice coordinator for the county, and the county government. The suit alleges Mr. Huggins and Mr. Zylwitis were responsible for "individual acts of a personal, arbitrary and capricious nature brought about by a deceitful conspiracy."

Mr. Huggins, who was unavailable for comment yesterday, was defeated by Sheriff Robert G. Pepersack in the November 1990 election.

Mr. Zylwitis, who also has left county government, said the suit has "absolutely no basis" and that there was never any conspiracy to dismiss either deputy.

"Bill Huggins and I never could agree on the time of day, and there was never any conspiracy as far as that goes," Mr. Zylwitis said. "Frankly, it's a nuisance suit."

According to the suit, Mr. Gillen and Mr. Moran worked for the sheriff's office from 1985 to 1989. During that time, Mr. Gillen helped unionize the deputies and establish an overtime pay policy.

But Sheriff Huggins "developed a strong personal dislike for Gillen and his friend Moran," according to the suit.

In 1988, county police took over the job of serving warrants from the sheriff's office. The sheriff was to provide the Police Department with three deputies to transport prisoners.

Mr. Huggins ordered the two men to take these positions "in an effort to rid them from the Sheriff's Department," the suit alleges. But when, about two months later, he learned they were happy with their jobs, he had them transferred back to the sheriff's office "to further harass them."

Mr. Gillen then contacted Mr. Zylwitis, who told him of a plan to create a prisoner transport unit. The two men were named to the unit in February 1989. After completing training at the county police academy, the two men were sworn in as police officers and began work as "Prison Transport Officers," according to the suit.

But they lost their jobs when former County Executive O. James zTC Lighthizer decided to hire a private firm, Wackenhut Security of Boca Raton, Fla., to transport prisoners, effective July 1, 1990.

The suit says Mr. Huggins accepted two positions transferred into his department and filled them with two new deputies rather than take back Mr. Gillen and Mr. Moran.

Mr. Legum said his clients are now working, but declined to say what kind of jobs they have found.

"The point is they don't have the careers they wanted and that was to work in law enforcement in Anne Arundel County," he said. "It was a shell game and these men lost their jobs because they did nothing beyond what they were told to do."

But Mr. Zylwitis said the two men were never members of the Police Department and when their positions were terminated in 1990, their names were put at the top of a Personnel Department eligibility list and sent to Mr. Huggins, who had two positions open and available.

He said the sheriff, who is elected by county voters, has autonomous authority to hire and dismiss his own personnel and was not bound by the Personnel Department's eligibility list.

"The sheriff didn't want to go by the eligibility list. He chose not to take these guys back, but wanted to go through the process of looking for other qualified candidates," Mr. Zylwitis said.

The suit seeks $400,000 for each plaintiff -- $200,000 in compensatory damages and $200,000 in punitive damages.

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