The Washington Post

Pr. George’s jail director denies retaliation claim

The director of the Prince George’s County jail denied Wednesday that she passed a lieutenant over for promotion because he told a newspaper reporter that officials knew of a problem with cellblock door locks more than two years before a band of inmates disabled their cell door locks, but did nothing to address the issue.

Mary Lou McDonough, director of the county Department of Corrections, testified in a hearing before the county personnel board, which is considering a grievance filed by jail Lt. Scott Devine.

“What I did was pick the best candidate (for captain), in my opinion,” McDonough testified during a hearing in a county government office in Largo.

Devine alleges that McDonough last fall skipped him over for a promotion to captain in favor of another lieutenant who ranked lower on the department’s promotional exam.

Devine alleges that McDonough last fall skipped him over for a promotion to captain in favor of another lieutenant who ranked lower on the department’s promotional exam.

Devine alleges that he has been targeted for harassment since he was quoted in an April 10, 2009 Washington Post article. In the story, Devine confirmed the authenticity of a memo he wrote dated Jan. 16, 2007. In the memo, Devine wrote than a jail inmate had demonstrated how to defeat cell door locks at the Upper Marlboro jail by jamming plastic spoons into them.

In the interview, Devine said he recalled writing the memo and said he personally handed it to Gregory O. Harris, who at the time was a Lt. Colonel at the jail. Devine said Harris said, “Good job, Scott,” when he handed Harris the memo.

A little more than two years after Devine said he wrote his memo, on Feb. 1, 2009, at least eight inmates simultaneously burst from their cells and threw trashcans and chairs at jail officers. The uprising was quelled without any serious injuries. Inmates were angry that the jail was locked down, which meant inmates had to stay in their cells virtually around the clock, and because they were not allowed to watch the Super Bowl.

During Tuesday’s hearing, Associate County Attorney Adrienne Morgan Davis, who is defending the county, asked McDonough whether the news article had any bearing on her decision to not promote Devine.

“None whatsover,” McDonough testified.

McDonough said she had concerns about Devine’s decisiveness in making command decisions, and the quality of his decisions. McDonough said had no such concerns about Cedric Gamble, the person she promoted to captain instead of Devine. Gamble had worked as an acting captain for nearly 10 months, experience Devine did not have, McDonough said.

When the April 2009 article was published, McDonough and other officials questoned the authenticity of Devine’s memo. McDonough repeated those concerns in her testimony, saying officials could not find copies of the memo, which typically would be saved.

Under cross-examination by Bruce R. Lerner, Devine’s attorney, McDonough said Devine was never investigated for creating a false document or for lying.

Harris, who is now the civilian deputy director at the jail, also testified Tuesday. Harris said he does not recall Devine ever handing him any memo about the security of cell doors.

The personnel board is scheduled to continue the hearing on May 18.

Devine has also filed grievances with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Maryland Commission on Human Relations. Those actions are pending.

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