Candidates for clerk of court address employees

August 19, 1998|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

Eight candidates for clerk of the Circuit Court of Baltimore were asked to identify the problems with court administration and solutions at a forum yesterday for courthouse employees. The answers?

"I don't know," former state Del. Frank M. Conaway, 65, told the crowd of 70 at the Clarence M. Mitchell Courthouse. "I'm never going to tell you 'I'm going to do this and I'm going to do that,' because it is simply not true."

Candidate Pamela Carter-Goodwin said she knows, but she wasn't talking.

"I don't know if I want to discuss my plan because the other candidates" might steal it, announced Carter-Goodwin, 45, an administrator with the Baltimore Health Department.

So went the forum for courthouse employees to hear from the people fighting to be their boss. Nine candidates, all of whom are Democrats, are in the race. Eight appeared yesterday at the forum sponsored by the recently formed union that represents courthouse employees, Local 1214 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Candidates focused mainly on promising to improve employee morale, fight for good wages and improve the courthouse's reputation. The $64,000-a-year job has been vacant since Saundra E. Banks died in August 1997 after 14 years in the post.

Many in the city consider the job a thankless one because of the difficulty of efficiently managing a court system that handles thousands of cases. The candidates range from a deputy sheriff to a political consultant. Several are courthouse employees.

Yesterday, candidates spoke of poor working conditions, lack of technology and disrespect that courthouse employees suffer.

Candidate Gwendolyn B. Jones, 41, a deputy courtroom clerk and vice president of the union, said courthouse management was rife with "cronyism" and "tyranny."

"It can be a good place to work again," said Jones, an employee since 1975. "This atmosphere of fear that is around here right now is not conducive to good work."

Arthur W. Murphy, 48, a political consultant, said he would be an "advocate" for the employees. Murphy, whose brother and father have been judges in Baltimore, said he wanted to change the image of the clerk's office in the legal community.

Pub Date: 8/19/98

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