Hagerstown warden resigns, faults `dictatorial leadership'

June 11, 2005|By William Wan | William Wan,SUN STAFF

The warden at Maryland Correctional Institution-Hagerstown resigned in protest this week, criticizing the Maryland Division of Correction for "dictatorial leadership" and job cuts that show a "disregard for public safety."

Joseph Sacchet, who has worked for more than 30 years in the corrections system at all three medium-security prisons near Hagerstown, said in a letter this week to The (Hagerstown) Herald-Mail, his staff and Corrections Commissioner Frank C. Sizer Jr. that he is resigning effective June 30.

Through a department spokesman, Sizer said Sacchet "made a decision and we wish him well."

Sacchet said in an interview yesterday that he had struggled under Sizer's administration with micro-management, staff shortages and verbal abuse from supervisors. He said the main reason for his resignation was his antagonistic relationship with Assistant Commissioner Michelle Elzie.

One conversation with her left him so shaken, he said, that his doctor ordered him to take days off from work because of stress.

"It's clear to me they had an agenda," Sacchet said. "There's no doubt in my mind, they were going to force me out."

A correctional officers' union said the warden's resignation affirms that job cuts at prisons have eroded safety.

"Here's a warden saying what we've been saying all along," said Ron Bailey, executive director of the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 92. "The state is endangering our officers."

Sacchet said in the interview yesterday that he was prepared to lose 30 to 35 positions under an Ehrlich administration reorganization plan, but instead the department has cut 82 jobs since September.

"This system is going to crumble. Somebody's going to get hurt," he said.

In a written response to Sacchet's criticisms, Mary Ann Saar, Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services secretary, said that "we're committed to working with legislators and anyone else who comes forward with concerns or recommendations."

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