ANNAPOLIS, JUNE 8 -- Anne Arundel County employes suspected by their employers of drug abuse will undergo mandatory drug tests beginning Aug. 1, County Executive O. James Lighthizer announced today.
Public safety employes such as police officers and firefighters will be fired if the drug test is positive, except in extenuating circumstances. Other employes will be suspended without pay for 30 days if a drug test is positive the first time and fired if it happens again.
Lighthizer also announced that he will ban smoking in county buildings, except in designated smoking areas and individually occupied offices. The ban includes county-owned autombiles, unless all those riding in the car agree to allow smoking. The County Council refused to pass a similar measure in April, saying the issue should be left to Lighthizer to decide.
During a news conference today, Lighthizer also said he would introduce legislation to extend the county's adequate public facilities laws to cover the City of Annapolis. The law requires that builders and developers prove their projects will not overload roads, schools and public utilities, and then they must pay for those facilities to be improved if necessary.
City officials said they are uncertain how such a law would affect development in Annapolis. They already charge builders for road, water and sewer improvements in many cases, and city planning officials are revising policies for charging developers fees for improved roads. City officials said that adequate facilities laws covering schools would not have a significant impact on development because Annapolis area schools are not now crowded.
Under the drug testing plan dozens of supervisors throughout county government will be given a four-hour course on how to identify signs of drug use. Only those supervisors will be able to order an employe to be tested for drug use.
Public safety employes could be tested if a trained supervisor found cause for "reasonable suspicion," Lighthizer said, while other employes could be tested only if there were stronger evidence against them -- "probable cause" to believe the employe was taking drugs.
Suspected employes will be ordered to accompany the manager to a nearby private laboratory to be tested. If the test is positive, public safety employes will be fired unless extenuating circumstances exist. Such circumstances were not specified today. Other employes can be fired or suspended without pay for 30 days.
"I don't have any information that county employes have any more problems with drugs than anyone else in society," Lighthizer said. But he said he had "an obligation to make sure that we make an effort to identify people who may be using drugs. It's a matter of public confidence."
The Lighthizer plan follows the example of some other Maryland counties, such as Howard and Montgomery, which test county employes for drug use if there is reason to believe they may be using illegal drugs.
Sgt. Thomas Michalowicz, president of the county Fraternal Order of Police, said police had suggested a drug-testing plan to Lighthizer over a year ago and that most aspects of Lighthizer's plan were acceptable. "We're thorougly in favor of it," he said. "The way we look at it, we're waging a war on drugs in the whole country, and sometimes you have to give up some of those personal liberties."
Michalowicz said police officers are concerned that narcotics officers who have accidentally inhaled marijuana smoke during undercover work could test positive, and said the county should look closely at extenuating circumstances before firing someone.
Lighthizer said his effort to extend adequate facilities laws to Annapolis is meant to close a "loophole" in the current law and is based "on the theory that developments in the city have an impact on areas outside the city."
Although the city does not have an adequate public facilities law, developers of many types of projects -- including all multiunit housing, restaurants and hotels -- must pay for the impact of their projects on roads and water and sewer facilities.
"Annapolis has always prided itself on being a leader in the state for adequate facilties when it comes to new development," Mayor Dennis Callahan said today. As a result, Callahan said, a bill passed by the County Council will probably have "very little effect."