Baltimore County's independent-minded personnel board is involved in a new dispute with the Hayden administration over the cases of two county workers it feels were treated unfairly.
The dispute erupted as David D. Queen ended his three-year term as board chairman. Mr. Queen, who was appointed by County Executive Roger B. Hayden, is an outspoken attorney active in Republican politics. He left the board Aug. 3. No new chairman has been announced.
Mr. Queen sharply criticized the county executive in May, when he spoke for the five-member board in declaring illegal the "secretive" way Mr. Hayden handled the February layoffs of 290 county workers.
The newest dispute involves two county workers who filed grievances to get pay they felt was owed them for work they did above their normal job classifications. The county's Personnel and Salary Advisory Board ruled that the county owes Michael W. Kendall and Michael Kulis. However, the two men haven't been able to collect.
What has most upset the board is that the county has ignored its rulings in the two cases.
Mr. Kendall, a 10-year county worker, thought he'd been promoted within the county's Department of the Environment and Resource Management in September 1990, when he was given a supervisor's job. He did the job for two years, working with county lawyers on the vexing stump dump fire in Granite.
In June 1992, he filed a grievance because he never got the pay raise to go with his promotion. He won, and the personnel board, headed by Mr. Queen, ordered the county to calculate the extra money owed and pay up.
Instead, the county claimed that the board exceeded its authority. Richard N. Holloway, personnel director, said that promotions first must be approved by the county budget office. Giving Mr. Kendall money would set a precedent for promoting workers without getting budget approval, he said. Stanley J. Schapiro, county attorney, agreed.
L "[The board] ordered something that can't be done," he said.
Mr. Kendall argues that he did the work he was assigned and that it's unfair to deny him the additional $1,500 to $2,000 he should have gotten for his efforts. Now he and the lawyers with whom he once worked will be opponents when the Baltimore County Classified Employees Association, his former labor group, takes his case to court.
County lawyers presented another problem for Mr. Queen and the board. They advise the board and represent the Hayden administration.
"In the private sector, it would be malpractice," Mr. Queen said at the board's last hearing July 21. "To put it mildly, it has me quite agitated."
Mr. Kendall, who got a commendation letter from Mr. Hayden June 18, quit his county job in disgust July 9 and is now working as a private consultant.
Mr. Kulis' tale is similar. The board ruled that the county owes him for work he did at a higher level than his regular job. He's not expecting the extra money any time soon, he said.
In fact, he's doubly frustrated because an earlier personnel study recommended that his job be reclassified to a higher level, but the February layoffs imposed by Mr. Hayden resulted in his being demoted to the same job he had in 1989.
The Kendall and Kulis cases aren't the first occasions in which Mr. Queen and the board have taken the Hayden administration to task. On May 5, the board blasted the executive for the "unduly secretive" and "arbitrary" way in which the February layoffs were handled. The board found Mr. Hayden violated the county code by not giving county workers advance notice of the layoffs. Administration officials argued that the three to nine weeks of severance pay workers received was the same as notice.
During a recent interview, Mr. Queen made no apology for his independent attitude as board chairman.
"If my job is to show up and create the illusion of a hearing, I don't plan to show up," he said. "I take my job very seriously."
Former County Attorney J. Carroll Holzer pointed out that the county's policy of ignoring the board's rulings puts a large financial burden on aggrieved employees. Mr. Holzer, who represents a group of laid-off county workers seeking redress, said it's much more expensive to hire a lawyer to prepare a court case against the county than it is to hire one to defend against a county appeal of the board's ruling.
"If [county officials] don't like the decision, they take it to Circuit Court and get it knocked out." he said.