Sheriff alters sick leave, hiring rules

Anderson's action removes him from personnel matters

`No exceptions' allowed

Pratt investigating five months' leave for sheriff's wife

May 12, 2000|By Caitlin Francke | Caitlin Francke,SUN STAFF

The Baltimore sheriff's office has made changes in its hiring and sick leave practices, responding to reports of questionable practices that allowed the sheriff's wife to receive full pay while she took five months off for back surgery.

Two memos from Sheriff John Anderson's chief deputy, G. Wayne Cox, were posted in the office Wednesday. The memos state that employment and sick leave transfer requests will be handled by the office's administrative officer, who will ensure that all city and state guidelines "are strictly adhered to."

"No exceptions shall be granted to any employee of this agency," the memo about sick leave reads.

The memos suggest that Anderson's office is concerned about running afoul of personnel laws. They also suggest that he is trying to distance himself from the hiring process after The Sun disclosed Wednesday that the road to a job at the 134-employee agency often starts at his office.

Neither Anderson nor Cox responded yesterday to phone calls or faxed questions about the memos. The assistant attorney general who represents the office, Frank Mann, declined to comment. In previous interviews, Anderson has maintained that he has done nothing wrong in his hiring or the handling of his wife's sick leave.

In addition to Anderson's wife, who was hired as a secretary in April 1998, shortly before their wedding, six of Anderson's or Cox's family members, friends, or children of friends are on the department payroll.

The office is being audited by city Comptroller Joan M. Pratt who is investigating, in part, the treatment of Anderson's wife, Donna Gilchrist Anderson. Officials in State Prosecutor Stephen Montanarelli's office said this week that they would review Pratt's audit to see if Anderson committed misconduct while in office. Montanarelli's office investigates elected officials.

In addition, the state personnel office is looking into the office's hiring practices and handling of employee benefits.

Anderson earns $64,000 a year and has been elected three times since being appointed sheriff in 1989. His employees are based in the Circuit Court buildings on Calvert Street and are responsible for serving warrants, summonses and foreclosure notices. The sheriff's office also provides security for all five city courthouses.

The sheriff is a state official, but his budget is largely controlled by the city. His office has both city and state employees.

Donna Anderson was able to take months off because three employees, who serve at the pleasure of the sheriff, donated more than 120 sick days to her. According to office records, one of the donors was a state employee. Donna Anderson works for the city.

Andrea M. Fulton, executive director of the state Personnel Services and Benefits office, said the law does not allow sick leave transfers between city and state employees.

The new memo about sick leave states that all city employees must follow city personnel rules when they are donating sick time. That means city workers at the sheriff's office who want to donate sick leave must have it approved by the Board of Estimates, according to Jesse E. Hoskins, Baltimore's director of personnel.

In the past, city employees at the sheriff's office who wanted to donate or accept leave did not have to go before the board because Anderson had all employees follow the state's personnel rules. The memo states that "effective immediately" all sick leave donation requests will be handled by Theresa Smith, the administrative officer, who has final approval.

"Ms. Smith shall ensure that all guidelines concerning Sick Leave donation shall be strictly adhered to," the memo states. "Baltimore City rules that apply to Baltimore City Employees, as well as State of Maryland rules that apply to State Employees, shall be observed and fully complied with."

The memo also states that Smith will handle all requests for jobs, in an apparent attempt by Anderson to distance himself from the hiring process.

Employees are told to direct any inquiries about positions to her. Smith "shall distribute and receive all applications for employment," the memo states.

Before, Anderson's personal secretary -- and Anderson himself -- could give out applications.

The change comes after Anderson described to The Sun what he does when people ask about jobs. He said he told them to call his secretary, Rita Schiff. Schiff, according to the sheriff, would ask him to approve all applications she handed out.

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