Letter: Maryland Corrections Staffer Injured by File Cabinet Says She is Out of a Job, Cut Off from Medical Care or Disability and Governor and Secretary Fail to Answer Her Plea for Help
TO THE EDITOR:
In light of the recent FBI investigation on the corruption involving Correctional Officers at Eastern Correctional Institution, I would like to share my story with your readers on the corruption that I have been made a victim of from ECI’s administration.
I was a happy State of MD employee at ECI for 12 years. I was a Correctional Case Management Specialist who received outstanding work evaluations and as shown in my picture, was awarded Employee of the Quarter in 2009. That all changed on June 12, 2012, when a filing cabinet fell against me in our office striking me with such force that it injured my neck and back. For years a Case Manager complained to our Supervisors (3 different ones over those years) that there were safety issues regarding the filing cabinets and they needed to be replaced, but his concerns were ignored and then I was injured by one. I was out of work for about a year receiving medical treatment. When my pain management Dr. and Orthopedist cleared me to return to work, ECI allowed me to return to work. I returned to work for a few days, but personnel gave me a letter days after stating I was being separated (a nice way of saying fired) from my job on June 13, 2013, because ECI would not accommodate my permanent medical restriction to work a sedentary job only.
I applied for State of MD accidental disability retirement benefits since ECI wouldn’t allow me to report to work anymore due to my medical restriction. To my surprise, the MD State Retirement Agency denied me for benefits and even denied me for the less generous retirement plan offered for state employees called ordinary disability.
I obtained an attorney to appeal and was denied again for both retirement benefits again at the reconsideration level. My attorney found out the reason why MSRA denied me is because ECI submitted a memo with misleading and false information in regards to my job. In it personnel stated my job was 95% sedentary (the same medical restriction I was cleared to work that ECI said they could not accommodate) so the MSRA denied me for all medical disability retirement benefits because they feel I can continue to work my normal job duties even though ECI won’t allow me to report to work there anymore. The memo also falsely states my job duties do not require me to act as a Correctional Officer in a time of emergency. My former position is included in the list of mandated classifications that has daily contact with inmates. I can be asked to perform security, custody, and control functions within the Correctional setting and was required to complete mandatory Correctional training certified by the MD Correctional Training Commission so I could do so. Case managers including myself have always been called to perform CO duties in times of need usually during mass shakedowns of the housing units. This is important because, in my application, I stated that sometimes we have to perform CO duties in an emergency and I have to be medically cleared for full duty to do so. Lastly, instead of ECI personnel providing more information to MSRA on why I can no longer work there, they were more interested in stating on the memo that they were advised on the QT that I was currently working in another sedentary job. At that time I was not working then and making that statement alludes as if I wouldn’t work ECI’s sedentary position but could work a sedentary position with a different employer when in fact I had no choice in the matter the reason why I was no longer working at ECI.
I spoke to ECI Personnel Director Christi Seman and asked her why I was fired from my job because they couldn’t accommodate my medical restriction to work a sedentary job only if my job was 95% sedentary. She explained to me that since I’m not medically cleared for full duty, I can not work around inmates or have contact with inmates in a Correctional facility because the state is not going to be liable for me if I got injured inside a hazardous Correctional environment. So nice of the State to protect themselves from any liability issues but not care about my well being financially and medically. She referred me to contact Karen Murphy, Executive Director of Human Resources for Dept. of Public Safety and Correctional Services. I emailed her for more information, and she stated that my job is included in the list of mandated classifications and are considered to be Institutional support staff and any employee who is unable to fulfill the job requirements can no longer have contact with inmates. Per COMAR 12.10.01.01, the definition of Institutional support staff means a mandated employee who performs one or more of the duties of a Correctional Officer, but whose primary duties are other than that of a Correctional Officer, classification counselor, parole, and probation agent, or monitor. So according to Ms. Murphy, we can perform CO duties. If we’re not supposed to, then that means Case Managers have been working outside of their classification for a long time which would be a serious breach of security.
Speaking of breach of security, I appealed my case again for an administrative hearing on the issue. My former Supervisor, Jon Scramlin testified against me by stating that my job duties are 95% sedentary and then he states that Case Managers are never required to act in the capacity of a Correctional Officer. It’s funny he makes that statement considering he was the one who sent a Case Manager and an office secretary to work at the control center of a housing unit on the morning of Friday, August 5, 2011.
Facility Administrator, Darryl Webster ordered Mr. Scramlin to send two Case Managers to work inside the control center of a housing unit that was being searched during a mass shakedown at the Eastern Correctional Institution-Annex. Working inside the control center of a housing unit is another primary duty of a Correctional Officer.
ECI won’t let me continue to work there, and the MD State Retirement Agency will not approve me for disability retirement benefits because they feel I can continue to work my normal job duties.
FA Webster wanted Case Managers to work inside the control center to free up the Sargent and the CO who was working the control center so they could help out with the cell searches that were being done.
The Case Manager is permitted to work inside a control center, but the office secretary is a non-Correctional, unauthorized employee who is not to set foot inside a control center let alone control it! That would be a serious breach of security that places all staff, inmates and most of all public safety at risk if she had opened a wrong door by mistake allowing an inmate to take control of the housing unit! So not only did he lie when he said Case Managers are never required to act in the capacity of a CO, but he actually sent one and an unauthorized employee to do so. That afternoon, F.A. Webster emailed Mr. Scramlin and the Case Management staff thanking us for our help in the housing unit. Not long after that, F.A. Webster confronted the department wanting to know who told the union that an office secretary worked inside the control center earlier. The Warden at the time, Kathleen Green was made aware of the violation as well, but instead of Mr. Scramlin being disciplined for it, it was quickly brushed under the rug. So he still has his job but lied in regards to mine to hinder my due process for a fair hearing for my benefits.
My administrative Judge gave a lot of weight to Mr. Scramlin’s false testimony and also recommended denial of disability retirement benefits. My last appeal was in front of the Board of Trustees where my attorney requested that I at least be granted ordinary disability retirement benefits and they denied me as well on October 18, 2016.
So after four long years of fighting the state, the result of me getting injured on the job is I know longer have my State of Maryland job and the State of MD denied me of all my disability benefits, so I no longer have my state medical benefits.
I wrote Governor Hogan and DPSCS Secretary Stephen Moyer for help on getting a positive resolution for me, but they never responded back. At this time I requested either my job back or approval of ordinary disability benefits. This is clearly an abuse of state government which is why I had written to Congressman Harris for federal intervening on the matter. ECI won’t let me continue to work there, and the MD State Retirement Agency will not approve me for disability retirement benefits because they feel I can continue to work my normal job duties. How can the State of MD continue to get away with this especially after I was injured on the job? How long can the State have it both ways? Thank you.
(Editors’ Note: If and when Governor Hogan, Congressman Harris or Secretary Moyer respond to Ms. Tyler an update will be provided.)