Workplace violence or threats against county workers will be met with zero tolerance under a policy approved by the Calvert County commissioners Tuesday.

The new policy -- requested by the Calvert Employee Representative Committee (CERC) -- sets up procedures for filing, investigating and resolving workplace violence complaints and for taking disciplinary action, said county personnel director Gail Davis Bourdon.

Barbara Warner, a Calvert resident who told the commissioners that she had been a victim of workplace violence, was a leader of the effort to enact the new policy.

"They don't know how to handle it," she said of county workers confronted with complaints. "The victim needs to be put first rather than the person committing the crime." She said the incident in which she was involved was so stressful that she could not sleep or eat for a time afterward.

Under the policy, county supervisors and department heads are responsible for reporting incidents and assisting in investigations of complaints brought to their attention.

Employees who engage in workplace violence will be subject to disciplinary action that could include dismissal.

The policy -- an amendment to the county's personnel code -- underwent three revisions before being approved in its final form Tuesday. The employee committee did not take a position on the final document, although it had supported the prior two versions.

"The committee felt everyone had some questions about it," said CERC chairman Ruthie Buckler. She likened the committee's abstention on the final language to a no-comment response. "But it wasn't a bad 'no comment,' " she said.

Warner said she worried the policy may give department heads too much authority in resolving workplace violence issues. She said that in some cases friendships between the abuser and the department head can put the victim at a disadvantage.

"I hope that anyone in a leadership position is not letting a friendship get in the way of their job," Commissioner Wilson H. Parran (D-At Large) said.

Health Pool Problems

Calvert County might have to pay as much as $56,000 to cover a deficit it did not create, county officials said Tuesday.

The board of trustees for the Local Government Insurance Trust has approved amendments to bylaws that would close the Health Benefits Pool and cover its $2 million deficit with funds from the Primary Liability Pool, said Terry L. Shannon, the county's director of administration and finance. Calvert County is a member of the Primary Liability Pool.

Two-thirds of the trust's membership must vote in favor of the amendments for them to pass, she said.

The county commissioners expressed their opposition to the amendments in a letter sent to the trustees on Tuesday. Calvert County commissioners President David F. Hale (R-Owings) said the county would be paying for another jurisdiction's deficit.

"We've never received a benefit from that health pool," Hale said. "This is Calvert County taxpayer dollars that we're using to fix some other jurisdiction's lack of management skills."

Among other things, the changes would give the trustees the option to use inter-pool borrowing as a way to address deficits in the general fund, as well as authorize moving money from one pool to another to address closure of a pool.

"Apparently there's a lot of little municipalities, little towns that feel that they can't pay the deficit," Hale said.

Shannon said she thinks the county should have a representative on the board if this goes forward.

"It is my understanding . . . that each pool of coverage was to stand on its own," Shannon said in her written report to the commissioners. "That is, participants in each pool were to cover the cost of that service provided in that pool."

But Calvert County's input won't matter if two-thirds of the members decided to approve the amendments, said Commissioner Gerald W. Clark (R-Lusby).

"Basically we're going to pay it if two-thirds of the other participants vote to approve it," Clark said.

New Drug Abuse Council

Calvert County will establish a local drug and alcohol abuse council in compliance with a new state law.

The new law -- part of the Governor's Substance Abuse Treatment Initiative -- requires each county to create or designate such a council.

The county commissioners voted Tuesday to give the Core Service Agency the responsibility to put together the new body according to the state law's requirements. The agency will make recommendations to the commissioners, and then the commissioners will appoint the volunteer members.

The Core Service Agency already manages publicly funded drug and alcohol abuse programs, said Maureen Hoffman, director of community resources.

According to the state law, the council must include at least one recipient of addiction treatment services, one substance abuse prevention service provider, one individual who is informed and active on substance abuse issues, and others. Hale said the statute leaves little flexibility in choosing members for the council.

The council will be responsible for developing a plan to use state and local resources for drug and alcohol prevention and treatment.

The council will take local requests for state funds and provide technical assistance to local organizations.

New PhD Program

The College of Notre Dame of Maryland will offer the first doctoral program this fall at the Southern Maryland Higher Education Center.

The program -- leading to a PhD in instructional leadership for changing populations -- was approved recently by the Maryland Higher Education Commission. This degree marks the first doctoral program offered in Southern Maryland and also is the first by the College of Notre Dame. It is also the first of its kind in Maryland.

Information sessions on the program are scheduled at the center in St. Mary's County from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Sept. 14 and Nov. 17. The program will be offered at the center and at the college's home campus in Baltimore. Degree applications for the spring semester 2005 are due by Oct. 15.

Cynthia Shoemaker, coordinator of university programs at the Higher Education Center, has application packets at SMHEC and it is available from the contact information below. She said the new program is designed to equip teachers and other education professionals with instructional leadership for linguistically and culturally non-mainstream learners. The program will focus on the role of language, culture and language development for educators at all classroom levels, for children, and for adult training applications.

The program was proposed by the College of Notre Dame because of the changing nature of Maryland's general and school populations. Those changes, the program's designers said, mean that students need teachers who understand and use new approaches to instruction and assessment that incorporate knowledge about language acquisition, particularly second language acquisition.

Research methods, comprehensive examinations, a research seminar and dissertation are the requirements for the 45- to 60-credit doctoral program. Shoemaker said participants will study language; learning and instruction; historical, global and philosophical perspectives; change theory; and educational policy and legal issues.

More information about the doctoral program is available from Sister Grace D'Amico at 410-532-5106, at www.ndm.edu, or from Shoemaker at 301-737-2500, Ext. 204.