Union chief accused of improper pay advances She says issue arose in bargaining dispute

July 18, 1996|By Kate Shatzkin and William F. Zorzi Jr. | Kate Shatzkin and William F. Zorzi Jr.,SUN STAFF

The board of the Maryland Correctional Union has scheduled an emergency meeting tonight to consider allegations that its president improperly took $21,000 in salary advances over the past two years and to discuss a proposal for her to repay the money.

MCU President Mary Kim Howard said yesterday that she took the salary advances in part because she was not paid the first four months she was on the full-time job in 1994. She said that all advances were approved by the union's board, and that she had done nothing wrong.

"I don't feel I've broken any law," Howard said. "My books are always open."

Howard said the advances have become an issue only because MCU, which represents about 1,300 correctional employees in Maryland, and its parent union, the American Federation of Teachers, are battling.

AFT wants a third union -- the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees -- to represent MCU members in collective bargaining with the state.

In May, Gov. Parris N. Glendening granted limited collective-bargaining rights to unions representing about 50,000 state employees.

An agreement signed this month by the presidents of AFSCME International and AFT International calls for AFSCME to bargain on behalf of Maryland public-safety employees.

Some MCU board members said yesterday that the intent of the agreement was to kill their 4-year-old union, and that they will oppose it. AFSCME, which represents 2,500 correctional employees in Maryland, would have to be approved in an election to do the bargaining this year.

"Correctional employees in general seem to be viewing this as being able to speak with one strong voice when they get to the table," said AFSCME spokesman Joe Lawrence.

Howard said questions about her pay advances were motivated by AFSCME's attempt to take over representation.

AFT officials did not return telephone calls yesterday.

MCU Vice President Michael Spiller said yesterday that because of the questions concerning the advances, the board removed Howard as an employee July 9 and that she no longer is being paid. She could be removed as president only by a vote of members.

A report on MCU's finances, completed in May by an AFT accountant at Howard's request, found that she received salary advances totaling $21,059 between November 1994 and November 1995. According to the report, Howard said the executive board approved them in October 1995.

But Spiller said the board approved only a 5 percent raise for Howard, and did not know of the advances. Howard, in turn, accused Spiller of trying to aid the AFT's bid to push MCU members into AFSCME.

The accountant who conducted the examination, John Feldman III, wrote that documentation Howard provided him "does not indicate that the board members approved advances to the extent taken."

Howard has offered to repay advances by forgoing her raise, but Feldman wrote that that would take 12 years.

James Horsey, an MCU board member representing Jessup prisons, said the financial issues were less important than retaining Howard as union president as MCU fights for survival.

New board member Robert F. Mundeno was confident Howard would pay back the money.

But Jimmy Ward, a board member who works at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic and Classification Center, said: "We need take some kind of action because it was wrong and we were deceived."

Pub Date: 7/18/96

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