The Prince George's County attorney's office has filed a $1.7 million suit against the union representing county jail guards as a result of a prisoners' uprising that occurred in the jail when the guards went on strike in August.
The suit, filed in Circuit Court last week, asks for $1.5 million in punitive damages and $200,000 in actual damages for broken glass and damage to furniture, control booths and plumbing, as well as the costs of paying overtime and hiring persons to fill the positions of the striking guards.
The jail guards' walkout at midnight Aug. 12 precipitated a three-hour uprising by 200 inmates. During the strike, County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan had threatened to fire the 120 striking guards, but Judge James M. Rea forbade Hogan from doing so. The guards' seven-day strike was part of a longer strike by 1,400 public employes.
Paul Manner, president of the union that represents guards, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employes, called the suit "nothing more than a vendetta by a county executive who is using the county attorney's office as a tool against the union."
Manner, who was named in the suit along with union leader Steven A. Tanhauser Jr., said he was perturbed that the county attorney, who also is supposed to represent the County Council, did not ask Council members whether they wanted to bring the suit. "The county attorney is nothing but Hogan's boy," said Manner. "He's nothing but a hack."
County attorney Robert Ostrom said the county was requesting punitive damages "to prevent such conduct from occurring in the future."
The suit charges that the union "maliciously interfered" with an employment contract, trespassed at the county detention center, caused damage to property and was negligent in advising jail guards to abandon their posts.
The suit asks $500,000 in punitive damages for each of the first three charges; it seeks $50,000 in actual damages for the first three plus $50,000 for the fourth. Cost of repairs was estimated at $50,000 in the incident, although the suit seeks four times that amount for actual damages, Ostrom said that although the total request comes to $1.7 million, he expects that a judge would award money under only one charge if he ruled in favor of the county.