State recommends no action against boiler inspectors Panel finds insufficient evidence to affix blame

October 17, 1997|By Marcia Myers | Marcia Myers,SUN STAFF

A state panel recommended yesterday that no disciplinary action be taken against the private boiler inspectors whose work was called into question last year after the discovery of hundreds of safety violations in the Baltimore schools.

After a boiler accident in June 1996 seriously burned a 7-year-old at Hazelwood Elementary School, state inspectors conducted a random review of schools that revealed faulty safety valves, painted-over controls and other problems. Of 109 pieces of equipment inspected in 42 schools, not one passed state inspection, raising serious questions about the quality of the work by private inspectors for Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co.

In addition, a review by The Sun in June found numerous instances of "double-booking," in which the private inspectors filed two distinct sets of reports: one detailing problems, which went to schools; and the other attesting to the safe condition of the equipment, which was forwarded to the state.

Throughout its investigation, state officials have said it is imperative that they be notified immediately about conditions that pose serious hazards.

Yesterday's report acknowledged "discrepancies" and "non-uniformity" in reports filed by inspectors of Hartford Steam, but did not affix blame. "We did not find sufficient evidence to support a recommendation to revoke or suspend the commission of any special inspector," said Kenneth Donithan, a member of the state boiler board who headed the panel.

Asked later how those discrepancies occurred, Donithan said he didn't know, and declined to comment further about the report.

Other board members said they believed the schools were mostly responsible, in part for not informing Hartford inspectors of maintenance problems.

"The schools have to take a look at their own system. It's a mess," said Russell Mullican.

Louis Williams, coordinator of operations for the schools, called the criticism "a bit unfair."

"For 18 months we've had a review process going on," he said. "Eighty percent of our equipment has been certified by state inspectors."

Pub Date: 10/17/97

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