Parks boss' commute upsets union leaders Baltimore residency rules come under renewed criticism

June 02, 1993|By Eric Siegel | Eric Siegel,Staff Writer

Leaders of Baltimore's municipal unions -- whose future rank and file members will come under a new residency requirement effective July 1 -- are "appalled" and "upset" that Marlyn J. Perritt, director of recreation and parks, was seen last week commuting to her job from Prince George's County.

Union officials say that Ms. Perritt's conduct demonstrates the hypocrisy of residency requirements. Some say it demonstrates the need for even-handed enforcement of residency rules, while others contend it shows that such rules are unnecessary and unenforceable.

Some City Council members make similar points.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, meanwhile, said on his weekly WBAL radio show that the "facts were correct" in a report in Sunday's editions of The Sun that Ms. Perritt had been observed by a reporter from Monday through Friday last week leaving the Mitchellville home she has owned since 1980 to commute to her office in Druid Hill Park.

But the mayor said Ms. Perritt "is not in violation" of a 1975 City Charter provision requiring the heads of all departments to become Baltimore residents and voters within six months of their appointments because she maintains a residence at the city-owned parks director's house in Clifton Park.

In its report Sunday, The Sun said that on four of those days, Ms. Perritt was seen at Baltimore's Pennsylvania Station a little more than an hour after leaving home.

In two interviews Friday, Ms. Perritt insisted that she was "absolutely" a city resident. But she gave conflicting accounts of when she had last spent the night in Baltimore.

She is registered to vote in Baltimore, giving her address as the parks director's house in Clifton Park, but the address on her driver's license is her home in Mitchellville.

The question of Ms. Perritt's residency comes just two weeks after Mr. Schmoke issued an executive order requiring all new municipal workers to become Baltimore residents within a year after the start of their employment. The May 14 order covers all employees hired July 1 or later and requires that they must remain city residents to keep their jobs.

"I'm appalled," William V. Taylor, president of Firefighters Local 734, said of the report of Ms. Perritt's commuting. "I disagree with the executive order to start with. But if it applies to one, it should apply to all."

"It did upset us to see that," said Loretta Johnson, of the Baltimore Teachers' Union, which represents 8,500 teachers and paraprofessionals. "It's a mandate for department heads to live in the city. She was circumventing that. The mayor should deal with that."

Cheryl D. Glenn, president of the City Union of Baltimore, which represents 7,000 clerical and technical workers, says she believes that the residency question goes beyond Ms. Perritt. Ms. Glenn, who supports the residency requirement and says 90 percent of her union's members live in Baltimore, contends that many managers maintain "bogus" city addresses to take advantage of a longtime practice of giving preference in promotions to city residents.

"I don't want to see one person targeted. I think the mayor should clean house with his whole management staff," she said.

Lt. Lee Nevin, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge No. 3, said Ms. Perritt's commute was an example of "Do as I say, not do as I do." But Lieutenant Nevin said the mayor should not do anything except "change his mind" about the residency requirement, which the FOP adamantly opposes. Nearly two-thirds of the city's nearly 2,900 sworn officers live outside the city.

"I think she should be able to live anywhere she wants as long as she gets to work on time -- just like the police," the lieutenant said.

Councilwoman Sheila Dixon, D-4th, chief sponsor of a council resolution that urged Mr. Schmoke to impose the residency requirement, said Ms. Perritt appeared to have "one foot in and one foot out" of the city.

"It's kind of a mixed message. If we're going to enforce the residency requirement, we're going to have to crack down," said Ms. Dixon, who said she was drafting a letter to the mayor asking how the new rules for all municipal workers were going to be enforced.

Councilman John L. Cain, D-1st, said, "It just shows the futility of the idea that city employees have to live in the city. If agency heads do not live in the city, how can an executive order be enforced that all city workers live in the city? It's unenforceable."

But Mr. Cain, who chairs a subcommittee overseeing Ms. Perritt's department, said he planned no hearings on the issue. "There are more important things to do," he said. "I'd rather keep rec centers open than investigate Ms. Perritt."

On his radio show, Mr. Schmoke, responding to a caller's question, said Ms. Perritt "thought it was necessary to go back and forth" to Mitchellville last week because her eldest daughter has a "serious illness. She did that commuting. There was a reason for that. But since she was [appointed] director of recreation and parks, she has taken up residency here."

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