Community college staff protest firing of adviser critical of officials

Worker had urged state to hold leaders to account

April 14, 2004|By Alec MacGillis | Alec MacGillis,SUN STAFF

A dozen staff members at Baltimore City Community College gathered in the rain yesterday to protest the firing of a 12-year campus veteran who had criticized the campus administration at a legislative hearing.

Mardon Walker, a student adviser, was one of three BCCC staff members who spoke at a House hearing in Annapolis in February to seek more funding for the college.

In their testimony, the three had urged more accountability for college leaders, who they said had spent $300,000 on outside lawyers during negotiations with the union representing campus staff, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. Legislators later demanded that the college limit its future spending on counsel during negotiations.

In a meeting April 1 with union representatives, BCCC officials threatened consequences for those who testified, staff members said yesterday.

Five days later, Walker was laid off, along with two other employees who did not testify in Annapolis.

Walker said she is appealing the firing with the state labor relations board and with legislators.

"They singled me out because I am such a visible advocate for the school," she said.

College spokesman Herbert C. Sledge Jr., who went outside to watch the protest at the college's Liberty Heights campus, said the layoff was not retaliatory.

It was, he said, part of the college's "reallocation of resources" and was in compliance with personnel procedures.

Sledge said he did not know whether administrators had warned of consequences in their meeting with union representatives.

He also said he did not know whether the college had spent $300,000 on lawyers.

Under a state law passed three years ago, nonfaculty staff at BCCC and other state colleges are allowed to unionize. After two years, the college's AFSCME local, with about 230 members, is still seeking an agreement with administrators.

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