FIRING SPARKS DEBATE ON FREE SPEECH FOR PUBLIC OFFICIALS: The recent firing of a high-ranking Maryland state employee who posted and reposted controversial comments and memes on social media – some of which suggested ideological sympathy with a teenager who is accused of having fatally shot two people in Kenosha, Wisc., – has reignited debate over how far free speech protections extend in the workplace and what the consequence should be for breaching protocol, Bryan Renbaum reports for Maryland Reporter.
AT MES, McGRATH ‘WORSENED MORALE:’ As Maryland lawmakers investigate practices at the Maryland Environmental Service, they heard Wednesday from the service’s former deputy director, who described a culture under former head Roy McGrath of a lack of accountability, shifting priorities and unpopular decisions, Pamela Wood reports in the Sun.
- A longtime employee of the Maryland Environmental Service told state lawmakers that Roy McGrath, the former director, worsened morale and treated the government entity more as a private corporation and that his six-figure severance and travel were outside the norm for his predecessors, Bryan Sears reports for the Daily Record.
- Roy McGrath, until recently Gov. Larry Hogan’s top aide, was portrayed by his former deputy at the Maryland Environmental Service Wednesday as an image-obsessed and secretive boss who torpedoed employee morale and undermined the women on his staff, Bruce DePuyt of Maryland Matters reports.
- Rachel Baye of WYPR-FM reports that the longtime employee said McGrath was particularly concerned with the agency’s image. For example, he established a rule that agency vehicles could not be parked at the agency’s headquarters unless they were washed first — a significant burden for workers who do what Wojton called “really, really dirty jobs.”
STATE GETS $2.4M FROM FEDS TO COMBAT JOBLESS INSURANCE FRAUD: Maryland received more than $2.4 million in federal funding Tuesday to help fight unemployment insurance fraud during the coronavirus pandemic, McKenna Oxeden of the Sun reports. As states continue to grapple with unprecedented numbers of claims to receive benefits form the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs, there has been an uptick in fraudulent activity.
B’MORE WON’T FULLY MOVE TO STAGE 3: Baltimore Mayor Jack Young said Wednesday that the city won’t move into Stage 3 of the coronavirus recovery plan announced by the governor, although it will loosen restrictions further in some areas, including restaurants and movie theaters, Talia Richman of the Sun reports.
BA CO TO ALIGN WITH STATE ON STAGE 3: Baltimore County Executive Johnny Olszewski Jr. said the county will align with the state and move into Stage 3 of the coronavirus recovery plan announced by the governor, which allows theaters to reopen and retail and religious facilities to expand indoor capacity, Wilborn Nobles of the Sun reports.
ELRICH: MO CO NOT READY TO EASE RESTRICTIONS: Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich said Wednesday that the county will not fall in line with the state in moving to the next stage of easing COVID-19-related restrictions, Caitlynn Peetz reports for Bethesda Beat.
OPINION: STOPPING EDUCATION’s ‘COVID SLIDE:’ In a commentary for MarylandReporter, attorney Marnell Cooper writes that “an essential issue (in remote learning) facing all communities — with increased urgency for chronically disadvantaged communities — is how are parents and trusted adults being educated to enable young people to be academically successful in ongoing remote learning.”
PG PUSHES STATE TO RECONSIDER IN-PERSON INSTRUCTION: As the 136,500 Prince George’s County Public Schools students began virtual learning this week, there’s a push for the state of Maryland to hold some form of in-person instruction later this year. Prince George’s Schools CEO Monica Goldson said health and safety remain the most important decision based on plans prepared in July, William Ford is reporting for the Washington Informer.
HOWARD TEACHERS PREP FOR VIRTUAL CLASSES: In less than a week, the Howard County school system will kick off the 2020-21 academic year in a completely virtual mode. With only the experience from the school system’s abbreviated distance classes from the spring, teachers in Howard County are spending the two weeks prior to the first day of school on Tuesday gearing up for the virtual semester, Jacob Calvin Meyer of the Howard County Times reports.
WA CO SCHOOLS TO REOPEN SOME CLASSES SEPT. 16: Washington County Public Schools will open its classrooms to some students on Sept. 16. The Washington County Board of Education on Tuesday approved moving to Stage Two of a five-part plan that brings students, teachers and staff back into the buildings, Sherry Greenfield of the Hagerstown Herald-Mail reports. The school district will move from what is now Stage One, where all students started the 2020-21 school year Monday virtually through distance learning.
NURSING HOME FINED $300,000 FOR LACK OF INFECTION CONTROL: Another 12 community cases of COVID-19 were announced by the Carroll County Health Department on Wednesday, the same day a report showed that a Sykesville nursing home was hit with a fine of more than $300,000 for failing to take sufficient infection control measures to protect residents from the coronavirus, Bob Blubaugh of the Carroll County Times reports.
BILL WOULD SPLIT HCBUs FROM USM: A bill that would give all of Maryland’s historically black colleges and universities independence from the University System of Maryland will be introduced in the next legislative session. But the educational institutions say they have not been informed about the pending legislation, Elizabeth Shwe of Maryland Matters reports.
BRAVEBOY, OTHERS TALK RE-ENTRY PROGRAMS: Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Aisha Braveboy said mentorship and reentry programs should be prepared for those incarcerated once a sentence gets imposed, reports William Ford for the Washington Informer. “When people go away, they are still part of our community,” she said. Braveboy joined three others from Prince George’s during a virtual discussion Monday, Aug. 31, titled “Maryland’s Disproportionate Incarceration of African Americans.”
POSTAL AUDIT FINDS 68,000 POLITICAL PIECES UNPROCESSED: An audit of U.S. Postal Service performance during this year’s primary election season has found 68,000 pieces of political campaign mail sat untouched at a Baltimore mail processing facility for five days ahead of the June 2 primary, Emily Opilo of the Sun is reporting.
- Jacques Kelly of the Sun tosses some history in the mail-voter fraud discussion with an article on the subject outlining a case from the Civil War, writing, “An 1864 headline in The Baltimore American, proclaimed the event ‘the great election fraud.’ The story played out in the early weeks of fall that year as the Civil War was in a critical stage and the country faced an important election.”
FREDERICK REPORTER JEREMY ARIAS, 34, DIES: The Frederick News-Post mourns the death of one of its reporters, Jeremy Arias, a colorful, compassionate, widely respected public safety and courts reporter who died Monday from a blood infection at the age of 34, Greg Swatek reports for the paper.