Cumberland Times-News

August 23, 2013

Delegation pulls an about-face, will now go to NBCI meeting

Greg Larry
Cumberland Times-News

— CUMBERLAND — Although Delegate Kevin Kelly has described a union-arranged meeting set for Monday at Allegany College of Maryland on the recent spate of violence at North Branch Correctional Institution as a “missed opportunity,” he said the District 1 delegation will reverse course and attend the meeting to show support for the correctional officers.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a union representing the correctional officers, who had initially enlisted the support and help of the delegation, arranged Monday’s 6 p.m. meeting, describing it as a town hall meeting.

The meeting will focus on issues surrounding the spike in inmate-on-officer violence at NBCI that has occurred in recent months.

The rise in violence has resulted in 15 correctional officers being injured in 30 days, included the stabbing of officer Herbert Hilliard on Aug. 5. Hilliard survived the attack that left him with 10 stab wounds.

“We want to assure the correctional officers that we are supportive of them,” said Kelly.

Kelly said the delegation decided to reverse a decision earlier in the week to boycott meeting.

“We don’t want the officers and their families to feel for one minute that we aren’t going to go to bat for them,” said Kelly.

The delegation had expressed concerns because, they said, the meeting was hastily arranged by AFSCME.

The union gave a week’s notice for what it called a town hall meeting.

Unlike the nature of many town hall-style meetings, however, AFSCME has closed the meeting to the media.

Gary Maynard, the secretary for the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, will be in attendance at Monday’s meeting.

“We want the correctional officers to be able to speak candidly to Mr. Maynard,” said Jeff Pittman, a spokesman for AFSCME.

However, Kelly feels the closed door nature and limited lead time have undermined a more thorough process the delegation had already started.

Following an Aug. 14 meeting with the union and families, the delegation sent a letter outlining the union and officer concerns to Gov. Martin O’Malley and the DPSCS.

The delegation placed their seal and cover letter on the letter and was awaiting a response from DPSCS.

“This meeting is a wasted opportunity. We wanted to give them a week. The secretary knew our letter and questions were coming,” Kelly had said.

After receiving the reply from DPSCS, Kelly said the delegation wanted to circulate the reply to everyone and allow time to prepare and create an agenda.

 The delegation then wanted to select a larger venue, like the auditorium at the college, and invite the public and the press.

Kelly said they also wanted to invite the wardens at WCI and NBCI, the governor, the correctional directors and executives, as well as the public and the media.

“We want to maximize the coverage. That is how you have a true town hall meeting,” said Kelly.

Greg Larry can be contacted at glarry@times-news.com.