Cumberland Times-News

December 10, 2013

Correctional officers take staffing complaints to delegation

Groups ask for lawmakers’ support at Monday meeting

Matthew Bieniek
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — A representative

of many local correctional officers

asked members of the District 1

legislative delegation for help with

staffing and other issues during the

delegation’s presession meeting

Monday evening.

Low staffing levels have created “a

dangerous situation,” said Jeff

Grabenstein, American Federation of

State, County and Municipal Employees

Local 898 president. AFSCME

represents correctional officers at

Western Correctional Institution and

North Branch Correctional Institution,

both in Cresaptown. The institutions

are both involved in an accreditation

process with the American

Correctional Association that puts

strains on resources.

“It means more we have to do and

we have fewer officers to do it with,”

said Grabenstein, a Cumberland resident.

Legislators offered some comfort,

saying that it looked like next year’s

budget would be adding correctional

officers to the prisons. Grabenstein

said his organization also opposes

increasing the time allowed from 90

days to one year for investigation of

correctional officers accused of

wrongdoing or breaking rules andregulations inside the prison.

An officer should not be held

dangling for a year, Grabenstein

said.

Correctional officers everywhere

in the state should have

the same disability rights granted

to firefighters and police officers

based on heart disease

and high blood pressure,

Grabenstein said. Delegate

Kevin Kelly said it makes no

sense that correctional officers

in some counties are covered

for such illnesses, while state

correctional officers are not.

The District 1 legislative delegation

is made up of Sen.

George Edwards and Delegates

Wendell Beitzel, Kelly and

LeRoy Myers Jr.

Other groups and individuals

also asked for the legislators’

help or simply let the political

leaders hear their points of

view.

Robert Godfrey of Friends

Aware asked for support on a

bond bill request for the organization’s

building project. The

bond bill would have to be

approved during the legislature’s

budget process. Godfrey

did not request a specific

amount. Work has already

begun on the building and renovation

plan. The plan is to

expand and renovate the

22,000-square-foot facility on

Holland Street.

Friends Aware currently

serves around 140 individuals

with developmental disabilities

who live in Allegany County.

Last year, the organization was

awarded $100,000 by the state.

Godfrey also thanked the delegation

for its past efforts.

Ed Evans of Cumberland

said he is opposed to plans to

increase the percentage of

ethanol in gasoline. “It’s killing

weed whackers and lawn mowers,”

Evans said.

Evan West of the Allegany

and Garrett County teachers

associations thanked legislators

for helping limit losses in

state aid during the 2013 legislative

session. West also said

that contractual issues would

not affect efforts to look at

school opening dates being

moved to after Labor Day. A

state commission is currently

reviewing the idea. Myers is a

member of that committee.

West also asked legislators to

support extending the Fairness

in Negotiations Act, which created

an impartial arbitration

body to examine disputes

between local school administrations

and teachers and other

employees.

Jackie Sams of Cumberland

asked delegation members to

be aware of some of the issues

on natural gas development

affecting Maryland. She particularly

mentioned the planned

Cove Point exporting facility in

Calvert County and expansion

of pipeline and compressor status.

Veterans continue to hope for

slot machine style gaming at

local veterans clubs, said Don

Nixon, the commander of the

Oldtown Veterans of Foreign

Wars Post and the District 3

representative for the state

VFW, representing Washington,

Allegany and Garrett County

VFW organizations.

Nixon is not happy with the

pull tab machines the state has

approved but still not distributed.

“They are not slots. ... They

don’t have the appeal slots

have,” said Nixon. Kelly and

Edwards said that they would

do what they could but that

there is little chance of getting a

slots bill for veterans organizations

through the General

Assembly.

“Until we can change the

thought process of the hierarchy,

it’s not going anywhere,”

Edwards said.

The meeting took place at the

Allegany College of Maryland

auditorium with about 30 citizens

present.

Matthew Bieniek can be contacted at

mbieniek@times-news.com.