Inquiry leads to official's resignation

Alton is accused of rigging typing test to help a friend

`There was no choice'

Departure comes as Owens tries to alter government culture

September 20, 2000|By Scott Calvert | Scott Calvert,SUN STAFF

A senior Anne Arundel County personnel official has submitted his resignation after an internal investigation found that he rigged a typing test for a friend in the Public Works Department by letting someone else take the exam, according to a high-ranking county official.

Joseph W. Alton III, a senior personnel analyst and son of former County Executive Joseph W. Alton Jr., tendered his resignation Friday, the same day The Sun repeatedly attempted to question him about the typing test allegations.

Chief Administrative Officer Jerome Klasmeier demanded the resignation, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. "There was no choice. It's over," the official said.

That account was confirmed by another administration official.

In a one-page letter, Alton told Klasmeier that he would leave his $67,470-a-year job as of Sept. 30. Alton, 52, who is on paid disability leave because of a knee injury, is not expected to return to work, his father said.

News of Alton's imminent exit came a day after County Executive Janet S. Owens said she was trying to change a county government culture in which personal ties have played an important role.

Owens has been buffeted in recent weeks by allegations of favoritism among key subordinates.

Alton, who has not responded to messages since Friday, could not be reached for comment yesterday. He prepared a four-paragraph statement for The Sun that did not address the typing test allegations except for a references to "inaccuracies and misstatements" in news reports.

Alton wrote that he would not respond to unspecified "detractors," and he spoke fondly of his 14-year county career. In his current job, he has handled personnel matters for county employees in departments unrelated to public safety. "I believe all of the employees and the departments I have represented during the years I have served as a personnel officer, and the citizens who have sought my help, know I have done my best to serve them," he wrote.

Alton came under scrutiny in July when it was alleged that he arranged to let a teen-ager take the typing test for a friend of his. The teen-ager, who had worked part time for the county, told The Sun that Alton administered the test on a Saturday in September last year when the personnel office was otherwise empty.

The teen-ager said she took the test so that a 28-year-old female employee could rise from clerk 4 to secretary 3 status. The 19-year-old Glen Burnie resident spoke on condition that she not be identified. She said Alton and the woman were the only other people in the office. "I thought I was helping out a friend," she said.

After the computerized test was administered, the 28-year-old employee's job title was upgraded. Her $28,631 salary did not increase, but the new title put her on track to achieve higher-paying secretarial jobs.

The teen-ager detailed her allegations in a signed affidavit to the county in early July, after she and the woman had a falling out. The high-ranking officials said an internal investigation concluded that Alton had rigged the test. He has denied doing so.

Members of the Owens administration said privately that they hoped Alton's resignation would show the public that Owens is taking decisive action.

Alton's father said his son does not have a new job lined up. Klasmeier accompanied Joseph Alton III to Anne Arundel Community College for an "informational interview" Aug. 25, but college spokeswoman Fran Turcott said the school has not made an offer.

Under the county's pension system, Alton will be eligible to receive about $18,000 a year when he turns 60.

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