Unions To Lodge Complaint

By Rosalind S. Helderman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 24, 2008

Prince George's AFSCME unions are filing an official grievance against the county, as the conflict between the government's unions and Executive Jack B. Johnson (D) deepens.

At issue is Johnson's decision to try to close a $48 million budget shortfall in part by renegotiating pay raises included in union contracts.

Johnson has said he does not want to freeze salaries but reduce the size of the raises as a way to avoid layoffs or furloughs.

Union officials are particularly steamed because they have been told that all raises are on hold until the issue is resolved. They said withholding increases outlined in signed agreements is a violation of their contracts.

In a July 17 letter to county employees, Chief Administrative Officer Jacqueline F. Brown indicated that all cost-of-living and merit raises are on hold while new fiscal plans are being devised.

"Our membership is outraged," said Vince Canales, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 89, noting that many members are especially furious about the delay in pay raises, given the recent death of Sgt. Richard S. Findley in the line of duty. "On the heels of everything that's going on, it's a slap in the face."

Wanda Shelton-Martin, a field representative for American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees Council 67, said union members plan to attend a meeting of the County Council on Wednesday to deliver their grievance and ask for the council to intervene on behalf of workers.

Johnson spokesman James Keary said that negotiations with the unions are continuing but that pay raises must be trimmed to ensure a balanced budget. He said the county's tax revenue has dropped sharply with the dipping economy.

"There's a lot of things that have been put on hold in this fiscal year to evaluate what's happening," he said.

Keary indicated that talks will continue until at least the end of the month to try to come to terms with the unions before county officials start looking at other options, including layoffs.

And what will happen at the end of the month?

"I believe a decision will be made," he said.

Former Delegate Named To State Parole Panel

A former Prince George's delegate has been named to the 10-member Maryland Parole Commission.

Obie Patterson, who served in the House of Delegates for 12 years before running unsuccessfully for state Senate against C. Anthony Muse (D) in 2006, was sworn into the full-time position by Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) on July 7.

The group weighs petitions from prisoners who qualify for parole, deciding who should be released.

Patterson called prisoner issues a "passion," saying that he had worked on a study of the state's prison system while in the General Assembly.

"It's a lot of work, but it's challenging, and I'm excited," he said.

Beltsville Event to Aid Slain Officer's Family

A National Night Out event planned in the county's 6th Police District will benefit the family of Sgt. Richard S. Findley, who was killed in the line of duty June 27.

The 25th annual event will be at the department's Beltsville station, at 4321 Sellman Rd., from 5 to 8 p.m. Aug. 5.

Police will show off crime-fighting techniques, including a K-9 unit, police cruisers and horse-mounted units. There will be free food and drinks at the event, which aims to get neighbors to meet one another and law enforcement figures.

A tribute to Findley will be at 7 p.m., and donations for his family will be accepted. Checks can be sent to the family, care of the county's Fraternal Order of Police, at F.O.P. Lodge 89, P.O. Box 566, Upper Marlboro, Md. 20773. Make checks payable to "F.O.P. 89" and write "Findley Account" in the memo section.

County Business Groups Honor Schools Chief

In the wake of big gains in math and reading scores reported last week among students in the county's public schools, the Greater Prince George's Business Roundtable and the Andrews Business & Community Alliance have presented Superintendent John E. Deasy with the 2008 Outstanding CEO Award.

"I see this honor as the business community's way of recognizing the outstanding work of our students and faculty," Deasy said in a statement. "The Roundtable and the Andrews Alliance are partners we can count on to advocate for the needs of our schools and students."

In Prince George's, proficiency on the Maryland School Assessments rose seven points in reading and five points in math, to 71 percent and 64 percent, respectively. Reading proficiency rose so dramatically among students of limited English proficiency -- nine points -- that Deasy asked data analysts to double-check the numbers.

M.H. Jim Estepp, president and chief executive of the roundtable and Andrews Business & Community Alliance, praised Deasy's leadership. "Every day, we see tangible improvements in the school system as a result of his work and the work of the exceptional staff he put in place to implement his vision for the county school system," Estepp said.

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