Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Miller v. Dept. of Public Safety & Correctional Services

Court of Special Appeals of Maryland

June 29, 2016

SHANIA MILLER
v.
DEPT. OF PUBLIC SAFETY & CORRECTIONAL SERVICES

          Meredith, Reed, Friedman, JJ.

          OPINION

          Friedman, J.

         This appeal raises the question of whether the Maryland Correctional Training Commission may revoke a correctional officer's certification (which the officer must have to work) after that officer has been recertified pursuant to an administrative order. We hold that, under these convoluted circumstances, the Commission may revoke the correctional officer's certification.

         PROCEDURAL AND FACTUAL BACKGROUND

         Shania Miller was a correctional officer at the Maryland Reception, Diagnostic & Classification Center ("MRDCC"). As a requirement of her employment, she held a certification from the Correctional Training Commission. In 2010, Warden Solomon Hejirka of the MRDCC terminated Miller's employment after he learned that Miller was engaged in a sexual relationship with an inmate ("First Termination"). Miller appealed her termination to the Office of Administrative Hearings ("OAH")[1] ("First Appeal") and, following a hearing, an Administrative Law Judge ("ALJ") ordered that the notice of termination be rescinded. The ALJ determined that the Warden had terminated Miller's employment more than thirty days after discovering Miller's misconduct, and thus the termination came too late under the governing law. SP § 11-106(b) (stating that an appointing authority may impose disciplinary action no later than 30 days after acquiring knowledge of the misconduct). As a result, an ALJ ordered that Miller be reinstated with full back pay and benefits but did not reinstate her certification without further examination ("First ALJ Order").

         Miller was reinstated to her position and was assigned to non-inmate-related tasks pending her recertification. During the recertification process, the Correctional Training Commission (the "Commission") discovered that Miller had failed to disclose a prior employment on her application. As a result of this nondisclosure, the Commission refused to recertify Miller and she was again terminated ("Second Termination").

         Miller appealed her second termination ("Second Appeal"). Following a hearing, an ALJ found that Miller's Second Termination was pretextual and that the Department failed to follow the recertification process. An ALJ ordered that Miller's Second Termination be rescinded and that she be reinstated "with no further examination or condition" ("Second ALJ Order") as is specifically permitted pursuant to CS § 8-209.2(a). Miller was again reinstated to her position and was issued a new certification.

         Following Miller's second reinstatement, the Commission convened a hearing to determine if Miller's certification should be revoked due to her alleged sexual relationship with an inmate. The Commission considered the investigation by the Internal Investigation Unit of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services and concluded that Miller was indeed involved in a sexual relationship with the inmate. Based on that conclusion, the Commission issued a decision ordering that Miller's certification be revoked and, as a result, she was again terminated ("Third Termination").

         Miller appealed the revocation of her certification ("Third Appeal"). Following a hearing, an ALJ concluded that the Commission did not violate the Second ALJ Order by revoking Miller's certification after she had been reinstated ("Third ALJ Order"). "Nothing in section 8-209.[2](b)[2] of the Correctional Services Article prevents [the Commission] from revoking [Miller's] certification after it was reinstated according to the ALJ's order."

         Miller filed a petition for judicial review in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City. Following an unfavorable decision in the circuit court, Miller has appealed to this Court.

         STRUCTURE OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY AND CORRECTIONAL SERVICES

         There are two paths through which a correctional officer may lose his or her position. To understand Miller's various firings, certifications, reinstatements, and recertifications, it is necessary to understand the structure of the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services ("the Department") and those two paths. At the top of the organizational chart for the Department is the Secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services. CS § 2-102(a)(2). There are several units below the Secretary, each with its own distinct duties. CS §2-201. Relevant to this appeal are the two units that participate in the certification, supervision, and termination of correctional officers. Those units are (1) the Correctional Training Commission (referred to above as "the Commission"), CS §§ 2-201(7), 8-203; and (2) the Operations unit.

         While the Commission comprises the entirety of its unit, the Operations unit further divides. At the top of the Operations unit is the Commissioner of Correction. CS § 3-202. Below the Commissioner of Correction is the Warden of each facility. CS § 3-211. One of the facilities included in the Operations unit is MRDCC. The powers of a Warden are limited to the specific facility that the Warden supervises. CS § 3-211 (stating that each Warden "is in direct charge of the correctional facility to which the warden … is appointed" and that the warden shall "supervise the government, discipline, and policy of the correctional facility."). If a correctional officer is accused of misconduct, the Warden, as the appointing authority for that facility, is tasked with investigating the alleged misconduct, meeting with the employee, and determining the appropriate disciplinary action. SP § 11-106(a). The Warden may take a number of disciplinary actions including a written reprimand, suspension without pay, up to termination of employment. SP § 11-104. A correctional officer's certification, which is issued by the Commission, is no longer valid upon termination by a Warden. COMAR 12.10.01.06B(2)(a). A correctional officer may appeal his or her termination to the Secretary, who then may refer the appeal to the OAH. SP §§ 11-109; 11-110. On appeal, an ALJ may uphold, rescind, or modify the termination. SP § 11-110(d)(1). The ALJ may also order recertification with or without examination. CS § 8-209.2(b).

         When a correctional officer is hired, he or she must "meet[] minimum qualifications established by the Commission" and apply for certification. CS §§ 8-209; 8-209.1. Correctional officer candidates must obtain certification from the Commission within one year of appointment. CS § 8-209 (allowing probationary appointment of correctional officers for no more than one year "for the purpose of enabling the individual seeking permanent appointment to take a training course prescribed by the Commission."). The Commission also has the power to revoke a certification. CS § 8-209.2. If an ALJ rescinds or modifies a disciplinary action, at the ALJ's ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.