Fulton bill affects office that fired kin

January 20, 1994|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Staff Writer

Del. Tony E. Fulton, D-Baltimore, says it's merely a coincidence that he has introduced a bill that would jeopardize the jobs of the two men who fired his brother from the state's pretrial release office in December 1992.

Mr. Fulton's bill would transfer the Pretrial Release Services Program from the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services to the District Court. The court's chief judge would have the power to appoint a new pretrial director and deputy director.

The current director, John Camou, and deputy, Robert Weisengoff fired Delegate Fulton's brother, Terry D. Fulton, for allegedly falsifying $125 in mileage expenses over a four-month period in 1992, according to documents in the administrative law hearing on the case. He had worked for the office for 10 years.

The pretrial release program screens people arrested for crimes and recommends whether judges should release them while awaiting trial.

Delegate Fulton said he introduced the bill because it's more logical for the courts, rather than the prison system, to run the pretrial program.

He denied that the bill is in retaliation for his brother's firing. But he said he believes the firing was politically motivated: "It was an opportunity for people to go after me through [Terry]."

Delegate Fulton said he has made inquiries for years into complaints from the pretrial program's employees, including "discriminatory practices in terms of promotions, lack of training and a power struggle between judges and those who work with the jail unit."

He also criticized the deputy director, who is a son of Del. Paul Weisengoff -- a colleague of Mr. Fulton's in the Baltimore legislative delegation. "[Robert Weisengoff] is the one who's the supervisor down there where the problems are emanating from," Delegate Fulton said.

Robert Weisengoff said of Delegate Fulton's bill, "I have no idea why he's doing this." He declined to comment further.

Baltimore City Detention Center Commissioner LaMont W. Flanagan, who oversees the pretrial division, said his agency opposes the bill because "pretrial belongs in the executive branch, not the judicial branch." He said the transfer would cost Maryland an extra $500,000 because the courts would have to duplicate some services already provided by the corrections division.

Terry Fulton, who oversaw a home-monitoring program for people awaiting trial, already has lost one appeal to regain his job. He has appealed again to the Circuit Court.

He said his firing was the first time he had been disciplined in 10 years. His supervisor testified on his behalf at the appeal hearing, telling an administrative law judge that Mr. Fulton worked 12 1/2 -hour days, according to the written decision in the case.

Mr. Fulton declined to talk about any political motivations for his firing, saying, "I just thought other steps of discipline should have been taken. . . ."

Robert Weisengoff, the boss who ordered an internal investigation into Terry Fulton's expense accounts, is himself the subject of a complaint to the General Assembly's Joint Committee on Legislative Ethics.

In December, the president of Maryland Classified Employees Association's Local 37 asked that committee to investigate whether Robert Weisengoff got his promotion with the influence of his father, the state delegate.

Robert Weisengoff, 35, was promoted from the position of investigator to the deputy's spot in 1991 -- jumping over eight supervisors.

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