Pretzel logic in Towson

August 18, 1993

In denying pay to two county employees who had worked above their regular job classifications, the administration of Baltimore County Executive Roger Hayden has fallen back on the kind of legalistic excuses it used during the layoffs of county workers last February.

Memories of Feb. 11, known as "Black Thursday," are still fresh in Towson. That's when hundreds of municipal employees were fired, some of them long-time workers ordered to clean out their desks that day. Even the county's five-member Personnel and Salary Advisory Board, comprised mostly of Hayden appointees, later blasted the executive for handling the layoffs in an "unduly secretive, arbitrary" manner that caused "confusion and poor morale."

The administration pooh-poohed the personnel board's charge that advance word of the layoffs was not given to workers. The severance package arranged for the employees essentially constituted proper notice, Mr. Hayden and company claimed. But then the board shot that argument down, calling it "an improper attempt to circumvent the notice requirement."

A half-year later, the administration and the personnel board have again locked horns. The two men who worked above their classifications filed grievances for pay they felt they deserved. The personnel board ruled they should get the money. However, the administration ignored the ruling. It said the board overstepped its authority, adding that promotions such as those received by the two men should have been approved by the county budget office.

This pretzel logic allows the Hayden administration to pretend that the two men were never promoted to the posts they held. Therefore, the work wasn't actually done and the men don't have to be paid for it!

David Queen, who ended his three-year term on the board earlier this month, said he was "quite agitated" by the administration's action in this matter. County residents should be upset, too. They have an executive who seems to have no qualms about flouting the decisions of the watchdog personnel board, and who cooks up lawyerly maneuverings to avoid compensating people fairly for work they did in service to the county.

Mr. Hayden's mission in Towson has been to trim government. Fine. But he shouldn't carry his cost-cutting obsession so far that he deprives county workers of pay they have earned.

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