Arnett Gaston, who resigned as Prince George's corrections director after criticism of his management of the county jail, circulated a lengthy memo to at least two state legislators last week in which he defended his tenure as jail director and criticized county leaders' handling of problems in the facility.
In a sharply worded, five-page memo accompanied by approximately 40 pages of letters and other documents, Gaston criticized County Executive Parris Glendening for failing to support him publicly and accused Sheriff James Aluisi, whose department controlled the jail until 1978, of seeking to "discredit the only black major department head in the entire county."
Gaston was not available for comment yesterday.
In his memo, Gaston also implied that racism was a factor in the criticism that led to his resignation, saying "It would appear that every black leader is being singled out in this county for negative attention. Although I have tried to stay above the question of racism, some very striking questions are being asked by others, and are also being asked by me."
Glendening, who said he was "very surprised" by the memo, said Gaston apparently circulated the documents in a bid to regain his former post or to have a proposed 90-to-120 day contract with the county extended to 6 months or more. When Glendening accepted Gaston's resignation from his $55,868 position March 14, Glendening offered him a contract, at his former salary, to consult with the county on the construction of the new jail.
Glendening said that he "most definitely" was reconsidering the proposed contract in light of the memo, and reacted with uncharacteristic irritation to questions about it.
"This is all I have to say about it. I like the guy but I've got to make efficient decisions based upon the well-being of the county and my standard is professionalism," Glendening said.
Glendening said he would not make any final decisions until he is able to meet with Gaston.
Dels. Pauline Menes (D-Prince George's) and Dennis Donaldson (D-Prince George's) said yesterday that they both had received a package of documents from Gaston within the last week.
The documents included a typed memo describing what Gaston said was "confidential information" about why he resigned; responses to a highly critical audit performed by the National Sheriffs' Association released the day his resignation was formally announced; sharp criticisms of subordinates; complaints about his treatment by the news media; criticism of Glendening's handling of jail issues, and complaints about Sheriff Aluisi, with whom Gaston had a rocky relationship during his tenure as jail director.
"What has occurred," Gaston wrote, "is a political sacrifice where a situation was manipulated by the county executive to divert attention away from his problems and inability to fulfill his campaign promises. . . "
Aluisi denied that he had ever tried to discredit Gaston.
Several black community activists contacted this week said they have considered approaching Glendening to discuss Gaston's situation, though none expressed specific hopes of winning Gaston's reinstatement. While some criticized Glendening, saying he had forced Gaston to resign because of public pressure, others blamed Gaston for a lack of political astutenesss.
"He should have been given a chance to prove himself under Parris's administration," said state Sen. Tommie Broadwater, Jr., "He Gaston has never gotten the support he should have."
Gloria Lawlah, a member of the county's Democratic Central Committee, said of Gaston "He is not political. Had he been that he probably would still be in there the corrections post . . . .but the jail is bad. The fact is that he just happened to get in there the same time the press got in there. It's always been bad."