MOSH cites sheriff over smoking law Though agency report finds violation, no penalty recommended

Complaint leads to probe

Brown tells officials he quit smoking

office will be monitored

June 02, 1998|By Mike Farabaugh | Mike Farabaugh,SUN STAFF

Sheriff John Brown won't pay a fine for smoking on the job, but state health officials will monitor his office to be sure his secondhand smoke doesn't endanger his employees.

Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) officials issued a 14-page report yesterday of their investigation into an anonymous referral received in April. In the report, MOSH concluded that Brown smoked in his Westminster office in violation of state law and issued a citation, but recommended no penalty.

The MOSH report said a referral, which is akin to a complaint, was made after an April 16 photograph published in The Sun showed Brown seated at his office desk with a cigarette in his right hand and a pack of cigarettes, white lighter and ashtray on his desk.

The sheriff was at first uncooperative with investigators during their unannounced visit April 21, the MOSH report said.

Investigators found that Brown "regularly smoked in his office and that employees were exposed to his second-hand smoke," labeling the violation as "serious."

MOSH officials define a serious violation as one in which a "substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result, unless the employer did not know or could not know through the exercise of reasonable diligence, the existence of the violation."

Brown was away yesterday and could not be reached for comment, a jail spokesman said.

Brown has said he would not smoke in his office again.

The MOSH report said Brown told investigators that "the picture of him in the newspaper was only a piece of chalk in his hand and that he quit smoking. The sheriff later said he smoked, but only outside the building."

Investigators acknowledged that Brown instructed Col. Charles F. Fowler, his chief deputy, to give them "full cooperation."

Fowler told investigators "he was aware that the sheriff smoked in his office and just kept his time in the sheriff's office to a minimum."

In summary, the report said, Brown "declined to be present at the closing conference and left no indication that he would not be smoking any longer in his office."

Investigators reported that Fowler said, "I will put forth my best effort, but don't put me down as saying I will stop him from smoking in his office."

The report said five of nine employees interviewed said Brown routinely smoked in his office.

The report did not name those interviewed, but indicated that four employees told investigators that they had "no comment" on or "no knowledge" of Brown's smoking habits.

Investigators found that the Sheriff's Office is autonomous, and that Brown has the final say in matters between the office and Carroll County government, which is required to fund the office.

Investigators also said county officials claimed to have no control over the sheriff's department or the hazards imposed upon employees or the Carroll County Detention Center.

Brown has 15 working days to appeal the MOSH citation, which was issued under the jurisdiction of the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation.

Pub Date: 6/02/98

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