Juvenile services deputy resigns

Sanniti hired less than two years ago to help implement reform efforts

May 17, 2006|By GREG GARLAND | GREG GARLAND,SUN REPORTER

A top deputy to Maryland Juvenile Services Secretary Kenneth C. Montague Jr., brought in by the Ehrlich administration less than two years ago to help lead reform efforts, abruptly resigned yesterday.

Carl Sanniti, deputy secretary of operations, submitted a letter of resignation to Montague shortly before 5 p.m., said Edward Hopkins, a spokesman for juvenile services. Hopkins said he was told that Sanniti "wanted to pursue other opportunities."

Roberto Rodriguez, assistant secretary for residential services, was appointed acting deputy secretary of operations, Hopkins said.

Sanniti's resignation comes shortly after last week's release of reports by an independent monitor on poor conditions and abuse in Maryland's juvenile detention centers and as officials confirmed yesterday that a worker at a Hagerstown facility had been caught on videotape punching a youth earlier this month.

In announcing Sanniti's appointment in October 2004, the Ehrlich administration said he had pioneered community-based alternatives to secure detention for juveniles and had worked closely with the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a Baltimore nonprofit group that is a national authority on juvenile justice issues.

Sanniti had worked with juvenile justice systems in Florida, Ohio, Georgia and Connecticut before coming to Maryland.

Meanwhile, Hopkins said that a worker at a Hagerstown juvenile detention center has resigned after a videotape showed him punching a youth in the mouth. Authorities are investigating further to determine whether criminal charges should be filed.

Hopkins said the videotape evidence supported the youth's claim that a worker at the Western Maryland Children's Center struck him the night of May 5.

The juvenile services worker, whom Hopkins declined to identify, resigned Monday. He would have been fired had he not resigned, Hopkins said.

The youth was treated by a nurse at the center for a swollen lip, he said.

Hopkins said the incident happened after the 17-year-old juvenile offender, angry that he didn't receive a phone call he was expecting, became confrontational and verbally threatened the staff. "He had to be physically returned to his room," Hopkins said.

While juvenile offenders must be physically restrained at times, staff are trained to subdue them without hitting them, Hopkins said. The agency does not "tolerate the physical striking of a child," he said.

In another incident about 11 a.m. yesterday at the Baltimore City Juvenile Justice Center, Hopkins said, two boys got into a fight and one of them was hospitalized because of his injuries. He said that the boy had claimed he was punched by a staff member, but that videotape showed otherwise.

State police and child protective services officials are continuing to review the Hagerstown incident, Hopkins said.

In a report issued last week, Independent Monitor Katherine A. Perez described the state's juvenile jails as overcrowded, understaffed and often out of control. Montague denied that conditions were as bad as portrayed.

greg.garland@baltsun.com

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