Employees' unions complain about workplace hazards at Clarence Mitchell Courthouse

Allegations include blocked exits, sewage contamination

June 30, 2000|By Mark Ribbing | Mark Ribbing,SUN STAFF

As officials plan to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Clarence M. Mitchell Jr. Courthouse today, unions representing court employees have complained to the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health office about poor working conditions at the courthouse.

The complaint includes a list of 14 workplace hazards allegedly present at the Mitchell courthouse and Courthouse East across the street, in the 100 block of N. Calvert St. They include blocked exits, pigeon droppings and possible asbestos and raw-sewage contamination.

The document asks for "inspections to be made as soon as possible."

Sheryl Kammerman, the MOSH official to whom the appeal is addressed, said it reached her desk Tuesday. She said she had not reviewed it and declined to comment.

"We're just trying to get things straightened out so it's a healthy and safe place to work," said Robert J. Ignatowski, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 3674, which along with AFSCME Council 92 made the complaint, dated June 23.

Circuit Court Clerk Frank M. Conaway complained early last year about "substandard" conditions in the Mitchell courthouse. The problems raised then have improved little, he said.

"I somewhat resent my employees having to work under these conditions," Conaway said.

City Solicitor Thurman W. Zollicoffer said the city, which runs the building, will look into the allegations.

"I haven't been put on notice that these particular conditions existed," Zollicoffer said. "If they are substantiated, we will take immediate action. ... We don't want people to work in hazardous conditions."

Officials plan to unveil a sandblasted cornerstone and a city landmark plaque today in observance of the building's centennial.

Judge David B. Mitchell said three of four air-conditioning units were not working at one point this week at the courthouse. The juvenile courts in the building were closed because of the heat, and matters on the docket were rescheduled. "It is a difficult situation," Mitchell said.

Sun staff writer J. Kimball C. Payne contributed to this article.

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