Union's board asks embattled president to repay advances Panel wants the $18,700 reimbursed in six months

July 19, 1996|By Kate Shatzkin and Brenda J. Buote | Kate Shatzkin and Brenda J. Buote,SUN STAFF

Members of the board of the Maryland Correctional Union voted last night in an emergency meeting to demand that the union's president quickly repay most of the $21,000 she has received in salary advances.

Five members of the board were present. They voted to present Mary Kim Howard with a promissory note to repay the money in six months at 6 percent interest. They said Howard actually owes $18,700 of the $21,000; the difference reflects a salary increase board members indicated she is owed.

The vote came under immediate fire from Howard, who did not attend.

"I did not call tonight's meeting so it was not a legal meeting of the board," she said. "Only the president can call an emergency meeting."

Howard would not directly answer a question about whether she would repay the advances under the terms of the note.

She said she is "willing to sit down with the members" of the board to discuss the advances on her salary, which she said is $39,182.

"I needed the money to pay [personal] bills that were four months past due" because "I wasn't getting paid for at least four months when I first took this position" in January 1994, Howard said.

An examination in May of the union's finances by an accountant for the American Federation of Teachers, MCU's parent union, found that Howard received salary advances totaling $21,000.

Howard yesterday produced a letter she sent to the auditor, signed by eight board members, which said that in October Howard "was given permission to take salary advances, as needed for her personal reasons. Ms. Howard will pay back anything over what her pay is by way of her salary."

Howard said: "They didn't say, 'You could take $10,000 or $5,000.' They said, 'as needed.' "

But the AFT accountant wrote that Howard's letter did not mean that board members gave her permission to take as much in advances as she did. After questions about the advances surfaced, the board removed Howard as an employee July 9 and stopped her pay, though she remains president.

Howard has vowed to continue to try to fight an agreement struck by the AFT to have the 1,300 correctional employees who are MCU members represented instead by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees for collective bargaining.

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.

MCU board members say they did not learn of the compact until after it was signed July 1.

The AFSCME-AFT partnership still would have to vie for bargaining rights with the Maryland Classified Employees Association, which represents 4,000 correctional employees statewide. And some MCU board members said they might try to win the right to bargain for correctional employees as an independent union.

All workers, no matter what their union, will have the opportunity to choose the union to bargain for them in an election this year.

Pub Date: 7/19/96

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