Two employes of the Prince George's County Department of Aging have filed grievances against Director James L. Foley, charging that he denied them leave time to which they were entitled in a move to prevent them from appearing at a council hearing last week. Members of the County Council called the hearing to investigate findings of an internal audit that sharply criticized numerous management practices of that department.
"I put in my leave on Oct. 29, for eight hours annual leave. At 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 3 (the night before the hearing), I got a phone call at home, telling me my leave was denied," said Sylvia Reisher, who filed the grievance against Foley last Thursday. The other grievance was filed by Hildegaard Benefield, a supervisor in the Nutrition Division, who has worked at the Department of Aging for the last eight years.
"He told me he did not have to give me a reason," said Reisher, a six-year employe of the Home Visitation Division of the department. "He told me it was his prerogative as director."
Benefield said she only discovered that her request had been denied when Reisher called her at home later the same evening. On Friday, two days after the hearing, Benefield said, her request form was returned to her unsigned.
"It was a capricious, arbitrary act designed to intimidate or harass me," Benefield said, "and if he was going to deny me leave he should have done so during regular office hours. We shouldn't have been called at home like that."
Foley did not return a reporter's telephone calls this week.
The grievances are the latest in a series of confrontations involving Foley, employes of his department, members of the council and County Executive Lawrence J. Hogan, who have traded accusations since the audit was released Sept. 28. The report, a routine performance audit performed by the Department of Audits and Investigations, was based on data from fiscal year 1979-80, which ended Oct. 30 of last year.
The report cited the department for repeated underexpenditures of allocated funds, a practice that James Chmelik, an official of the state's Office on Aging, said continued in fiscal year 1981. The audit noted that such underexpenditures could lead to cutbacks from funding agencies, and criticized what the auditors considered an unwieldy management structure that requires 44 employes to report to Foley directly.
In addition, the audit said, reports to funding agencies are repeatedly filed late, a practice that once threatened a large share of federal funding last winter. Finally, the report cited low morale among employes as a result of the unclear division of responsibilities, which caused one group to complain directly to the department's liaison in the county executive's office last year.
In response to the audit, Foley said that he had inherited a mismanaged agency and that most problems had been corrected.
Nevertheless, the council called for an investigation of the department, and set the hearing last week. Hogan reacted angrily to the attempt and refused to allow any of his appointees, including Foley, to testify. Calling the investigation a political ploy, Hogan issued a stinging letter to Council Chairman Parris N. Glendening two days before the hearing, labeling the hearing "a rather transparent attempt, in the fashion of a Kangaroo Court (sic), to publicly vilify the director and, with the aid of the press, advance your own political aims."
The grievances of the two employes will be channeled through the personnel system, and must first be reviewed by Foley. If the employes are not satisfied, the grievances will go before the personnel board. County employe union representative Paul Manner also has called for an evening hearing on the Department of Aging, which employes could attend without having to ask Foley's permission.