Anne Arundel County's top personnel official is stepping down amid lingering bitterness with labor unions as well as questions about his conduct toward his former secretary, according to a high-ranking official in the Owens administration.
Randall J. Schultz, the official charged since February 1999 with guarding employees' rights, is expected to turn in his resignation by tomorrow, said the official, adding, "There's the opportunity for a new beginning."
Schultz would be the third high-level county official to resign in the past month, including at least one who was forced out. The changes signal County Executive Janet S. Owens' intention to shuffle her deck of key employees as she nears the midpoint of her first four-year term this winter.
Schultz, who makes nearly $98,000 per year, did not return several phone messages yesterday. No one in the Owens administration would talk on the record about his status.
In a year and a half on the job, Schultz enjoyed some successes. He moved the county closer to going online with a new payroll system and successfully negotiated three-year contracts with five of the seven union locals.
But he did little to realize Owens' vision of a department that catered to about 5,000 county employees by offering services such as counseling and computer training. More damaging to Schultz, he alienated union officials - strong supporters of Owens' 1998 campaign - with a tough negotiating style that produced contentious labor talks last spring.
"The unions just felt they weren't dealt with in a proper manner," said County Council Chairman Daniel E. Klosterman Jr. "I heard that many, many times from a number of unions. Even some of the unions that settled with the county had a problem with Randy.
"When you lose your credibility, it's very difficult to get that back and have meaningful dialogue with the unions," said Klosterman, a Millersville Democrat.
The firefighters union made out better than most, winning 14 percent raises over three years for its 475 members. But its president said Schultz and his office made the process unduly acrimonious.
"We were stonewalled, we couldn't get meetings, we couldn't move things along," recalled Keith Wright. "Our whole theme when negotiations stalled was, `Come back to the table, meet with us and let's work through this.' We didn't get that until the end."
The administration further angered the County Council after talks with blue-collar employees stalled. While the council recommended a 3 percent, one-year raise as a compromise, Owens' team refused to budge from its 2 percent offer - the same raise unrepresented employees received.
Klosterman said questions about Schultz's workplace behavior - along with the ouster of a senior member of his staff for allegedly rigging a typing test for a friend - only added to Schultz's woes.
Schultz's former secretary, Jacquelyn Edelen-Dyer, has accused him of retaliation after she complained about his alleged close relationship with another female employee. In a grievance, Edelen-Dyer said Schultz punished her in May by making verbal threats and banishing her for two months to a job without any purpose - sorting job applications into piles - after she asked to change departments.
Schultz has denied any wrongdoing; the matter is expected to be heard by an arbitrator.
One council member said the perception is damaging. "That position has to be above reproach because it's a position of trust and there is a fiduciary responsibility to the employees," said Councilman John J. Klocko III, a Crofton Republican.
The accusations involving Schultz were made public about the time county officials were investigating Joseph W. Alton III, a senior personnel analyst. Last month, Alton was forced to resign after investigators concluded he rigged a friend's typing test to help her win a promotion.
Also last month, Owens spokesman Andrew C. Carpenter resigned as public information officer, effective Nov. 8. Owens has said Carpenter is leaving on his own accord and will be missed, but he clashed with other members of her senior staff over how best to deal with the news media.
Owens hired Schultz two months after taking office. He had spent eight years as Harford County's personnel chief, and prior to that handled employee matters for several companies.
But Klocko said Schultz and his team seemed inexpert at contract talks and used a "brass knuckles" style that exacerbated an inherently stressful situation.
"In that position, negotiations are more like a partnership of unions, government, council members, the executive," Klocko said. "Their methodology was autocracy. They held all the cards; they made sure they kept holding them."